LAHORE - The 11th edition of Pakistan’s highest level football competition Pakistan Premier Football League (PPFL), also known as ‘A Division League’, has been launched by Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) on September 20 at Karachi.

The two other selected centers are Islamabad and Lahore. The contests have been started at Islamabad center from September 22 while teams will be in action at Lahore center from October 13. Muslim FC Chamman is on the top of PPFL point table with KPT at second and Karachi Port Trust (KPT) at third.

The basic structural change made in the format of the PPFL for the season 2014-2015 by the PFF is the reduction of participating teams from 16 to 12. This has been done to improve competitiveness in the league. It will help bringing quality in the league as every match will be a tough contest. The number of matches has reduced from 240 played in season 2013-2014 to 132 to be played during current season 2014-2015. Reduction of venues is another experiment to raise the standard and make the teams comfortable as less travelling is involved.

Out of total 132 matches, 69 will be played in Karachi while 37 in Lahore and 26 in Islamabad. Four venues in Karachi including KPT Football Stadium, KMC Football Stadium, Korangi Baloch Football Stadium and Dr MA Shah Football Stadium have been announced by the PFF for holding the PPFL 2014 matches. In Lahore and Islamabad, all 37 and 26 matches will be played at Railway Football Stadium Lahore and Jinnah Stadium Islamabad respectively. The clubs from Balochistan have also been offered by the PFF to provide standard football grounds and if done so, 20 percent of the PPFL matches will be shifted to Chamman/Quetta. The defending champion KRL is starting its run on October 14 with a match against PIA at Jinnah Stadium Islamabad. KRL is hoping to claim the title for fifth time. The PPFL has involved the teams like KRL, K-Electric, Wapda, PAF, Army, PIA, Muslim FC (Chaman), KPT, NBP, Afghan FC (Chaman), Railway, Baloch FC Quetta for the current season 2014-15.

To give incentive to the participating teams and players, PFF president Makhdoom Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat has announced an increase in the prize money for the 11th PPFL as the winner will earn Rs one million while runners-up Rs 700,000 and third position holder Rs 500,000. The best player of the league will also capture Rs 150,000 while the best scorer, best goalkeeper, best match commissioner and best referee will get Rs 100,000 each and best assistant referee Rs 50,000. This time, the receiver of ‘fair play trophy’ will also get a chance to pocket Rs 100,000.

In total Rs 2.9 million will be distributed among the position holder teams and players with distinction. It is notable that the prize money in 2004, when the PPFL was launched, was Rs 800,000. Match bonus for each PPFL match to be played in the current season 2014-15 is Rs 50,000, as the winner will get Rs 30, 000, the loser Rs 15, 000 and man of the match Rs 5, 000.

Under the FIFA and AFC guidelines, the PFF has strictly implemented the league’s regulations due to which the PPFL has very strongly affected all the aspects of football in Pakistan. A gradual improvement in players’ performance, coaching, refereeing, team management, pitches, PPFL administration and adaptation of fair play values can be gauged easily if we compare the current league with the one when it was launched in year 2004.

Both FIFA and AFC have special focus on further development of PPFL ultimate target of which is the transformation of the league into a professional setup. In this reference the FIFA and AFC high-ranked officials have visited Pakistan several times to discuss and address the relevant issues and take steps in that direction jointly with PFF.

Expressing his views, PFF chief Faisal Saleh Hayat said: “The continuous holding of the PPFL successfully for 10 years is a worthy achievement. Now the league has gained enough maturity to take it to further heights. The PPFL has certainly contributed a lot to raise the standard of football in Pakistan butt still a long way to go.”

“The recently held lucrative deals of Pakistani players Kaleem Ullah, M Adil, Saddam Hussain and Muhammad Ahmed with renowned clubs of Kyrgzstan and Bahrain are best relevant examples. At the same time, participation of foreign players in PPFL also shows that the league is also gaining attraction among the international football circles which is an extremely healthy sign,” he added.

Sharing his views, PFF secretary Lt Col Ahmed Yar Khan Lodhi said: “The PFF along with its parent organisations, AFC and FIFA, are now adamant to improve the top flight football in Pakistan through glorifying and branding the PPFL, engaging the target market, launching projects to involve the corporate sector and through the increased viewership engage the media groups as well. This will not only lay foundation to a reformed image of football in Pakistan but also help brand our players and national teams and most importantly help PFF register the idea with the masses that football is not only for recreation in fact it is a full fledge career.”

As the PFF chief says a lot to be done but if we analyse what the PPFL has added into the football of Pakistan, it can be concluded ‘PPFL tree has started bearing fruit’.