Syed Saddiq and Foodpanda

THE recent social uproar over Selangor FA’s promotion of vape products has shown us a new low for local clubs when it comes to making money.

In a now deleted tweet, the official Twitter account for the state club promoted one of Malaysia’s vape chains Vape Empire, stating that fans with the Red Giants Team Card will be able to get discounts of up to 15% buying their nicotine products.

Vaping products, although largely unregulated in Malaysia, receives the same treatment as cigarettes by the Ministry of Health and the government.

Up until the 1990s, cigarette companies often tied in their products with sports, most notably football club sponsorship, to sell the “young and free” image.

Selangor FA itself once had a sponsorship deal with Dunhill, until the government clamped down on nicotine promotion as it evidently contributed to a rise in underage smoking.

While the recent uproar may paint a picture that it is a recent misstep on the part of Selangor FA’s management, social media digging actually proves that the football club started promoting Vape Empire and its products as far back as 2019, with a post showing the comparison between vaping and conventional cigarette smoking, and how the former is healthier.

While there are conclusive studies that vaping is still an unhealthy habit, the bigger question here is how is a football club able to get away with such careless promotions?

The recent event even caught the attention of the Ministry of Health, which retaliated with a post calling the club irresponsible for its shameless promotion and the potential effects the postings will have on younger football fans.

Although Selangor FA is no longer one of the top football clubs and a powerhouse it used to be, it still has a large following among Malaysians, especially teenage fans.

While it is especially worrying that Malaysia as well as globally is seeing an unprecedented take up rate of teenagers vaping – it is not surprising when football clubs are able to advertise them as if they’re a sports drink instead of a product that damages the lungs.

One wonders if the management of Selangor FA does not have the capacity to think deeply on how this will affect their younger admirers, with many of their fans rightfully pointing out the irresponsible promotion.

While Selangor FA is in dire needs to upgrade their facilities and infrastructure (a visit to the Shah Alam stadium will demonstrate their situation – the club will not be able to play at the stadium until next year at the earliest – the club should have exercised some judgment on how they can raise funds.

While focusing on getting sponsorships from the SME segment of our country may be the right track, blindly accepting it from any company without thinking of the long term effects is not, especially when it carries detrimental effects to the health of the people.

Sponsorships from businesses are part and parcel of the development of a more robust football club, and Selangor FA should learn from Malaysia’s top club Johor Darul Ta’zim, which managed to bring in vital sponsorships from the likes of JCorp and Berjaya to develop the club into one of Asia’s most formidable teams, over companies that profit from products damaging to human health.

The recent event should not just be reduced to a mere “blunder” on the part of Selangor FA. It is utterly irresponsible and ultimately an idiotic decision to have just to raise money.

Angry fan comments and disappointed postings from the Ministry of Health are not enough to teach a lesson to other clubs to raise money ethically.

As a father of three kids who love football, I often wonder how the local scene might be developed further for our children and country.

Selangor FA’s recent show of irresponsibility proves that more strict measures should be taken against them, such as forbidding them from playing for a set amount of time or at the very least a hefty fine.

As Malaysians who yearn to see our local talents grow, we should definitely call for more accountability when it comes to clubs raising money ethically and in the right manner, and we should start by demanding Selangor FA to at least publicly apologise for this nonsense. I hope this call will not fall on deaf ears.

* Razali Azman reads The Malaysian Insight.

* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight.

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