Football: Indonesian league ignores government advice to ban clubs

The Aremania, as fans of Indonesian Super League (ISL) football club Arema Malang are called, showing their support during an ISL match against Persija on Oct 11, 2009, at the Kanjuruhan Stadium in Malang, Indonesia. The league has been plagued by pr
The Aremania, as fans of Indonesian Super League (ISL) football club Arema Malang are called, showing their support during an ISL match against Persija on Oct 11, 2009, at the Kanjuruhan Stadium in Malang, Indonesia. The league has been plagued by problems, including corruption. -- PHOTO: ST FILE

JAKARTA (REUTERS) - The Indonesian Super League (ISL) have set themselves on a collision course with the government after ignoring a recommendation to disqualify two teams in the new season over concerns about the clubs' owners.

The Indonesian Professional Sports Agency (Bopi), sanctioned by the Youth and Sports Ministry, has already delayed the season for six weeks while it reviewed the 18 clubs after growing sick of mismanagement and financial problems in the corruption-marred league.

Only five were given a green light by Bopi ahead of Saturday's opening match day, but the body allowed a further 11 to compete providing they agreed to further reviews later in the campaign.

However, 2010 champions Arema Indonesia and Persebaya Surabaya were both red flagged by Bopi. "Arema Indonesia and Persebaya Surabaya failed to get our recommendations due to conflicting ownership," Bopi chairman Noor Aman was quoted as saying in Thursday's Jakarta Post.

Iman Suroso, the head of the verification team, said it was ready to take legal action if any team objected but the ISL did not flinch at the threats.

"What do recommendations mean?" Joko Driyono, chairman of league administrator Liga Indonesia, told the newspaper. "Those recommendations are only used as a reference for us to obtain match permits from the police.

"Our decision regarding 18 clubs has not changed."

He is unlikely to want to lose any more teams from the league, having seen the number cut from 20 when Persik Kediri and Persiwa Wamena were relegated earlier this year because of financial trouble.

Adding to the chaos, Persebaya's management said they were considering legal action against Bopi.

Persebaya CEO Gede Widiade added they had been approved by the Indonesian Football Association (PSSI) and the Indonesian Sports Committee (Koni) and would continue to discuss the matter with both agencies and the police.

"Bopi is not a major (soccer) organisation. We have obtained a recommendation from the PSSI and Koni," he told the paper.

Joko said a court date would be the best method to resolve the row but that is unlikely to come before Arema open their campaign by hosting Persija Jakarta on Saturday or Persebaya's Sunday fixture at home to Mitra Kukar.

However, Bopi could suggest another delay in the season following the row that further damages reputation of the sport in the country.

Last year's ISL was the first to run with some sort of cohesion after a merger with the rival Indonesian Premier League. The two leagues, which led to two national teams, were the result of a long power battle at the PSSI despite numerous threats of a Fifa ban.