FOOTBALL fans in the country can finally cure their itch for local game with the Football Federation of Brunei Darussalam (FFBD) announcing that the Brunei Premier League (BPL) will kick-off in March.
"Actually we wanted to start early in the year, but now we hope to start around March if everything goes to plan," said FFBD secretary-general Sheikh Nordin Sheikh Mohamad during an interview with The Brunei Times yesterday.
"The next thing we want to do is the Under-16 National League and hopefully we can find a sponsor soon.
"Since the U-14 league has concluded, we want to start the U-16 league before the BPL kick-off because we do not want to distrupt the players' classes. Therefore, the U-16 will start first, with the BPL to take place circa March or April," he added.
The sport's governing body in Brunei is also being held back by the lack of funds needed to run its programmes.
"On behalf of the FFBD and all the stakeholders who are waiting to play in the league, I hope that the Department of Youth and Sports of the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports can release the annual grant as soon as possible so that we can start planning and running the programmes," said Sheikh Nordin.
The FFBD has also started preliminary talks with the DST Group, who has been a strong supporter of the BPL since 2003.
"I had started informal discussions with our strong sponsor, the DST Group, but because of the uncertainty regarding the federation's status, I had to suspend the negotiations. Hopefully with the issue all cleared out now, I can re-start the talks soon. I hope the DST Group will continue to support us," said the FFBD secretary-general.
The FFBD cemented its position as the main football body in the Sultanate after the Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports, Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Laila Diraja Dato Paduka Hj Hazair Hj Abdullah called a meeting in December with all FFBD affiliates and Brunei's football stakeholders to inform them that His Majesty's Government will not reinstate the Football Association of Brunei Darussalam (Bafa).
Sheikh Nordin also extended his thanks to Brunei LNG Sdn Bhd (BLNG) for its sponsorship of the U-14 National League.
"We were able to proceed with the U-14 league, despite the uncertainty and monetary issue, as a result of the company's kind sponsorship. On behalf of the FFBD and all the participating teams, I would like to convey our utmost gratitude and appreciation to BLNG for its strong support and sponsorship," said Sheikh Nordin.
Previously in an interview with The Brunei Times, the FFBD secretary-general said the federation was weighing on the decision to ban imports.
Asked about it, Sheikh Nordin said: "It's still too early to confirm FFBD's position on the matter as we have not officially ruled on it. In my personal view, which is also shared by some federation members, I am in favour of the decision based on the factors that I have previously stated."
Sheikh Nordin thinks the presence of import players cause an imbalance within the league since only one team can afford them. In order to make it fair for all, the change is needed to improve the overall quality of the league.
"On behalf of FFBD's executive committee, I would like to express our sincere apology for the unavoidable delay. We apologise sincerely to all the teams for the delay and thank them for their patience. We hope that the teams can continue with their preparations until we make the official announcement later," concluded Sheikh Nordin.The Brunei Times ..