A bigger, better and more competitive United Football League is in the works.
Months before the season-opening UFL Cup kicks off, major developments have heightened the excitement of the Manila-based premiere league which is riding the wave of the unprecedented surge in interest for the sport.
A landmark television deal with TV5 which will pave the way for matches to be aired live for the first time in history and the impending entry of high-profile players have added to the buzz surrounding the season starting in October.
The league, backed by LBC and ran by Football Alliance, is set to sign a P150 million, five-year television deal with at least 80 games expected to be aired live for the season.
“This will definitely change the landscape of football in the country,” said Football Alliance chairman Santi Araneta, referring to the TV deal which is considered a first in the history of the sport in the country.
The deal includes a cash outlay of P20 million annually and another P10 million for advertising promotions.
Football Alliance sees the developments as a product of the effort they put in improving the league starting three years ago.
“The UFL has been there for quite some time, but we made it a point to really improve the league when Football Alliance came in three years ago,” said Araneta.
Araneta was quick to point to the success of the national football team “Azkals” as the main reason behind the rise of the sport and the league.
“We are always thankful for what the Azkals has done for the sport,” he said. “We hope to also find ways to contribute in the growth of football in the country.
Some of the top players in the league like Aly Borromeo, Anton del Rosario, Ian Araneta and Chieffy Caligdong are members of the national team.
The cash outlay will not only ensure the league’s staging for the next five years, but also boost the finances of the clubs.
UFL teams are actually bracing for the most competitive season yet.
The first and second divisions will expand to 10 teams each this season. Aside from defending champion Air Force, the first division features Global, Kaya, Navy, Loyola, Green Archers and Army.
Nomads will be promoted to the first division next season for topping the second division. Stallions and Pasargad, which finished second and third, respectively, have the inside track in the two remaining first division slots.
The UFL Cup opening on October 2 will actually stake the two remaining first division berths.
Teams outside the first division that will make the semifinals will face either Stallions or Pasargad who could gain automatic entry should there be no new teams making the UFL Cup last four.
“We expect better quality and exciting games,” said Araneta.