The Volleyball Association has put the country's premier professional competition, the Thailand Volleyball League, on the right track, but they still have more hills to climb.
The TVA has staged the top-notch league for the past eight years, making the huge leap to international-level competition as changes to the way it operates take effect.
In its early days, the league failed to make the grade. The popularity of the competition barely seemed to stretch beyond the players, their clubs and their families.
Things have changed. The remarkable success of the Thai national women’s team in world-class tournaments has boosted the popularity of the league. The flow of financial support from sponsors, a better format applied by the TVA, and increasing numbers of spectators are the key ingredients in the league’s ongoing success story.
After kicking off on November 3, the league season wrapped yesterday. Eight teams apiece in the men’s and women’s divisions chased the Bt1-million winner’s cheque over six months of single round-robin competition.
Nakhon Ratchasima were crowned men’s champions yesterday while a star-studded Idea Khonkaen ran away with the women’s title after going unbeaten through the whole season.
Making a perfect sweep of all 14 home-and-away matches, champions Idea Khonkaen will represent Thailand in the Asian Women’s Club Volleyball Championship in Dac Lac City, Vietnam at the end of this month.
It was no surprise that Idea Khonkaen VC took top honours, as they are a team loaded with national spikers such as Tapaphaipun Chaisri and Sonthaya Kaewbundit, as well as former national players like the hard-attacking Em-orn Phanusit and the 1.89m-tall Utaiwan Kaensing. But what is more unusual is that this will be the first time that a club team, not the national side, competes in the Asian meet.
Idea Khonkaen’s debut at the Asian level will help promote the Thailand’s domestic competition and thus improve the standard of club teams in the country. From now, each team will be forced into an all-out systematic effort to beat their rivals to the top of the league.
Each participating team received a modest financial incentive of Bt500,000 from the TVA, leaving them the task of seeking out sponsors themselves.
But if a team performs well by reaching a desired target, generous sponsors will be very happy to continue their support with more contracts in the near future.
However, clubs may find the task of attracting more fans more difficult. Marketing campaigns and administration are the two important factors which clubs must combine here.
While studying their marketing strategy, which includes selling club souvenirs and sporting items, each club team also has to seek out outstanding players, including foreign stars. The richer the team, the more stars players they will be able to afford for their line-up. In terms of audience, the league is hitting new records, thanks to live broadcasts via TrueVisions, NBT and SMM TV as well as daily coverage in newspapers.
The TVA’s support in staging the Thailand Volleyball League is on target, but to make the league a success on and off the court will require strong and systematic administrative planning.