Thai football’s communication breakdown

By
Updated: January 9, 2017
Pattaya media

One of the most difficult questions to ask professional football clubs in Thailand is: “Who is responsible for media.” If you’re asking in English, don’t expect much of a response.

There were four, then three football clubs in Pattaya playing in different leagues in the Thai football pyramid in 2016. Having visited all four at the start of 2016, and settling on following Pattaya (NNK) United, I can safely say there is limited interest in promoting football in English by the clubs. But many of the foreign fans I spoke to want more news in the world language – English.

Near the end of the 2015 season, I started writing about football in Pattaya. After several attempts (email, Facebook, visits, etc.) to get information on the teams, there was little to be had. One of the reasons is that few at the clubs speak English and my Thai is very basic. Bangkok-based clubs appear better staffed. I did walk around with a translator on several occasions but still club officials just smiled and said little.

Clubs in Thailand spend mostly on players’ salaries and little on administrative staff, thus each admin guy wears many hats for a comparatively small salary. The player-administration balance is slanted.

No one wanted to give me information about the clubs in Pattaya. The concept of writing about the clubs in English was (is), well, foreign. Club representatives were always busy on game days, never had business cards, or gave further contact details. There was the case at one of Pattaya’s home games where I was told I needed to be registered by a lady with an official badge but she was unable to give me details on being registered. By this time I had already written about several of United’s games for the Pattaya Mail as a freelancer, which I delivered to the club’s ground.

Media houses were not much different. Nonchalant responses dominate and still do. Pattaya People Media Group sponsors Pattaya City FC (not to be confused with Pattaya FC) yet little on the team is published in English on the group’s outlets (website, weekly newspaper, etc.). Pattaya Mail was responsive in publishing my game reports. The Mail’s sports editor and other sports writers mentioned the lack of response from clubs contributing to the lack of interest. Speaking with Thai media outlets at games, they are happy to produce only in Thai. One Pattaya TV station owner griped about the interaction with his attempts to transmit the games.

Football is not only a global sport but also a global business. English is the universal language. From mid-2016, there were some efforts to push English from the Thai football authorities. New personnel and a drive by the league’s administrators have seen an effort in getting material out in English.  However, from the clubs themselves, there is a lethargic reaction.

It’s good business to have material published in English. Players can command better transfer fees if they are well known. Clubs can access a wider variety of players. Marketing and sponsorship revenue can grow.

Regional and international fans do come to the games. There is a potential revenue stream from increased tickets, merchandising and international advertisements. Thailand is a major tourist destination with football part of the package.

One thing that would improve things is having designated people at the clubs to deal with the media. The media representative should be known by all individuals at the club and have some competency in English. Admittedly, some professional outfits (for example, Muangthong United and Bangkok Glass) do make an effort.

The chaotic nature of Thai football makes it difficult to follow in Thai, much less translate to English. The league’s early 2016 season cancellation with three games to go due to King Rama IX’s death is a prime example. Thai football news has been growing but may not have matured enough to move to the next stage of international reporting.

Besides language, maybe my sports management understanding is skewed having been shaped by American management courses and a Scottish MBA. Thai football is like a happy little fishbowl sitting next to a lake. Teams, media, sponsors and authorities are not pushing the expansion by using the global language. Things are slowly changing, though a critical impetus level appears a long way off.

Teams, particularly those based in Pattaya (ironically a well-known international tourist destination), should be friendly to English language media. It involves little cost and the rewards are potentially great.

One Comment

  1. Pete H

    January 9, 2017 at 1:53 pm

    Good article. The clubs are really missing a trick here. There is money to be made with the right marketing.

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ThaiGoals, Thailand Soccer, Thai Football, Premier League of Thailand, Thai Fixtures

Thailand National Team, Thai Grounds, Thai Division One, Thai Regional League, Thai FA Cup, Thai League Cup

ThaiGoals, Thailand Soccer, Thai Football, Premier League of Thailand, Thai Fixtures
Thai Regional League, Thai FA Cup, Thai League Cup, AFC Champions League, AFC
Thai Goals, Thailand National Team, Thai Grounds, Thai Division One, Thai Regional League, Thai FA Cup, Thai League Cup< ThaiGoals, Thailand Soccer, Thai Football, Premier League of Thailand, Thai Fixtures ThaiGoals, Thailand Soccer, Thai Football, Premier League of Thailand, Thai Fixtures
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