JDT, a Top Class Club with Narrow Southeast Asia

In professional sports, money and success go hand in hand. You win with money, and you need money to be strong. It’s no coincidence that all of Europe’s Big 5 league champions are among the top 10 in global revenue. The power of money is so great that it can be misused and abused. Málaga, Dortmund, Leeds United, and Valencia are just a few examples of clubs that have fallen victim to the curse of money. At the end of the day, how a club spends its money is what determines its success.

Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) is a club based in Malaysia’s second largest city, Johor Bahru. You’d be wrong to think it’s one of the more expensive clubs in Southeast Asia. They have a Starbucks and Subway at their home stadium, and European coaches working hard on the training ground.

Stadium tours, Nike’s “swoosh” on the chest of the jerseys, and collaborative marketing with IKEA are all things you’d expect to see at a big European club. We went to Malaysia to get a first-hand look at JDT, a club in the middle of Southeast Asia.

Strike it rich

I landed at Singapore’s Changi Airport and hopped into a pre-booked taxi. The direct flight between Incheon and Johor Bahru hasn’t been reinstated since before the pandemic. The trip wasn’t too inconvenient. It takes about an hour to get from Changi Airport to anywhere in Johor Bahru, especially in the early morning hours when the roads are quiet.

On the evening of November 2, the Sultan Ibrahim Stadium hosted the second leg of the Malaysia Cup semifinals. The home team, JDT, had already won the first leg 4-1 against Perak. On the day, JDT thrashed Perak 8-1 to reach the final for the fourth consecutive year. Among other unfamiliarities, I was struck by the state of the stadium, both on and off the field. It was incredibly clean. The level of cleanliness was frankly unreal. Flashsukan reporter Mohd Firdaus Zohari, whom I met before the match, let me in on the secret.

“TMJ really hates dirt. Even on non-match days, JDT’s home stadium and clubhouse are always spotless.”

TMJ is the initials for ‘Tunku Makota of Johor’. It means ‘Crown Prince of Johor’ and he is the owner of JDT. At the end of the 2013 season, TMJ attended a home game of Johor FC (as it was then called). At the time, the club was on the verge of bankruptcy. As is customary in Malaysian soccer, the owner, who retained only the title of owner, was disinterested in soccer. For the desperate home supporters, TMJ was their only hope. “TMJ, help us!”, “TMJ, save us!”

That day, the supporters’ plaintive chants finally reached the Sultan’s son. Soon after, TMJ made an official announcement to buy Johor FC. JDT fan Shakir Sidan (31, Aviation) says, “After hearing the chants that day, it was as if TMJ had made up his mind, ‘It’s time for me to step up.’ “We all cried when we heard the news of the takeover,” he recalls.

TMJ set to work on a major renovation of the club. The club was renamed Johor Darul Taqim and the supporters were renamed Boys of Straits. With overwhelming financial resources, JDT was able to snatch up the top stars of the Malaysian league. Within a year of the acquisition, JDT dominated the Malaysian League.

Creating a ‘real’ club through personnel changes

The real secret to turning JDT into a swan wasn’t money, but insight into the soccer industry. TMJ knew how a soccer club should be run. He brought in experts from Europe to draw up a roadmap for the club’s development. A youth academy was set up within the club, the first of its kind in Malaysia. Today, JDT operates with one to four age groups, from 12-year-olds to adults.

The training environment has also changed. TMJ imported advanced European coaching systems through a business agreement with Valencia. Even after the agreement expired, all of the personnel who flew in from Valencia stayed with JDT and have been working there ever since. As we entered the training center, Vijay Vik, head of public relations, told me, “You only hear Spanish and English here. The coaches are all Spanish and Argentinian,” he laughs.

The training center is equipped with state-of-the-art equipment, including a hyperbaric (oxygen) chamber and a zero-gravity treadmill. There’s a doctor on call and a sports nutritionist who customizes each player’s diet. There are two sides of natural grass, the same variety as the home pitch, and a semi-indoor training area in case of rain. “We’re building a new training center across the street from the home stadium,” says Vick. It will have 10 natural grass pitches. It’s going to be the best facility in Asia.”

JDT’s global workforce extends to general administration as well. The current CEO, Alistair Edwards, is a former Australian national sports administrator. After retiring from the game, he earned a bachelor’s degree in sports management and a master’s degree in business administration, and held managerial positions with the Australian age-group national team and A-League clubs. With an international owner and an Australian boss, the entire staff is fluent in English. This global culture has led to successful collaborations with global brands such as Nike, Weeblo, UNICEF, and IKEA.

The only Nike Premium Partner in Southeast Asia

The current home stadium, Sultan Ibrahim Stadium, opened in 2020. With a capacity of 35,000 seats, the stadium is modest in size, but it offers spectator circulation, interior comfort, state-of-the-art lighting, and a turf surface that ensures the best possible condition. StadiumDB.com, a website specializing in soccer stadiums, named it the 2020 Stadium of the Year.

Stadium tours are available at JDT’s home stadium at all times. In addition to regular tours, the club offers package deals that include accommodation and flights. A ride in a specially designed Hummer limousine is one of the hospitality offerings at the Sultan Ibrahim Stadium. The stadium is home to global F&B brands such as Subway, Starbucks, and KFC.

Currently, JDT is the only club in Southeast Asia to have a premium contract with Nike. It’s not an off-the-shelf customization like many K League clubs. It’s a “steamed partnership” where the brand designs it from scratch. Last season, UNICEF came to JDT for a partnership. Mr. Edwards (Australia) says, “Global brands now come to us first. They want to be a part of something ‘good’, a ‘good cause’, and they want to put their logo next to JDT, which is growing rapidly.”

The driving force behind the successful sponsorship business is JDT’s glory and presence. Currently, JDT has been the Malaysian champions for 10 years. In 2015, it became the first Southeast Asian club to win the AFC Cup (the lower tier of the AFC Champions League). In the 2022 season, the club reached the round of 16 of the AFC Champions League for the first time in its history. In Malaysia, the club already has national support and recently opened a fan chapter in Japan.

Building a fan base is essential for a soccer club. JDT’s colliers are full-time employees. There is also a fan-run fan shop in the stadium, separate from the official club shop. Paid collaborators may not sound familiar to Korean fans. However, professional sports in South Korea also employ cheerleaders and cheerleaders. FC Seoul has a cheerleading squad for every home game. Recently, JDT’s supporters, known as B.O.S, surpassed the 5,000 mark. Except for collaborators, supporters are fans. Think of professional baseball in Korea. The passionate support on the field is also one of the reasons why brands want to sign sponsorship deals.

Pros and cons of a monopoly

JDT has no competition in Malaysia. “JDT has no rival,” said Farhan Khair, a journalist from Media Digital Johor. As the 2023 season came to a close, JDT clinched the title with 23 wins and one draw from 24 matches. In the remaining three matches, JDT will aim to win the title for the second year in a row.

JDT’s monopoly has also proven problematic for the national team. Head coach Kim Pang-geon has always struggled to call up the national team. This is because most of JDT’s players are at the national level. TMJ has told the Malaysian Football Association that it is allowed to call up to 10 players. For the AFF Championship (commonly known as the Suzuki Cup), which is not on the FIFA calendar, JDT refused to send players. “There’s a perception in Malaysia that if the national team wins, it’s because of Kim Pang Gon, and if they lose, it’s because of JDT,” says Johari.

There are advantages, of course. JDT’s advanced club operations set a good example for Malaysian soccer. Clubs are starting to run youth academies. JDT regularly shares its know-how in player conditioning, injury treatment and rehabilitation within the league. “There will be a new Malaysian U16 competition next year,” says Edwards. “The higher the standard of the Malaysian league, the better JDT will be able to develop.

SuperRich soccer fanatic

Every interviewee I spoke to in Johor Bahru sang the praises of TMJ. While JDT would be a great sign for the crown prince, I was skeptical that anyone would invest that much of their “precious” time. “But have you ever talked to TMJ?” I asked each person I met. “I talk to him more often than my wife,” Edwards replied.

“One time we were winning 6-1 at home, and the game was over at 11:30 at night. All of a sudden, TMJ called a meeting. The manager, the executives, and myself went into the Sultan’s palace for a meeting at 12:30. TMJ raised the issue of set piece completion. As a soccer player, it was a valid point.”

Vick, the head of PR, also receives calls from TMJ himself every day. “TMJ’s office is just upstairs (on the third floor of the headquarters). He calls me all the time,” he says. When I asked him, “If you were offered a job by the Malaysian Football Association, what would you do?” he said, “I would definitely work for JDT. I can learn a lot from working here,” he says confidently.

“Earlier this year, TMJ invited us to the palace, where he and the fans had a serious discussion about the club’s future plans, how to develop, and what the fans want,” said Nick Musanif, 23, a member of the ‘B.O.S’ management team. “TMJ is the kind of person who solves any problem immediately, and once he has a plan, he always executes it.”

JDT Why the story is exciting

In professional sports, money and success go hand in hand. You win with money, and you need money to be strong. It’s no coincidence that all of Europe’s Big 5 league champions are among the top 10 in global revenue. The power of money is so great that it can be misused and abused. Málaga, Dortmund, Leeds United, and Valencia are just a few examples of clubs that have fallen victim to the curse of money. At the end of the day, how a club spends its money is what determines its success.

Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) is a club based in Malaysia’s second largest city, Johor Bahru. You’d be wrong to think it’s one of the more expensive clubs in Southeast Asia. They have a Starbucks and Subway at their home stadium, and European coaches working hard on the training ground.

Stadium tours, Nike’s “swoosh” on the chest of the jerseys, and collaborative marketing with IKEA are all things you’d expect to see at a big European club. We went to Malaysia to get a first-hand look at JDT, a club in the middle of Southeast Asia.

Strike it rich

I landed at Singapore’s Changi Airport and hopped into a pre-booked taxi. The direct flight between Incheon and Johor Bahru hasn’t been reinstated since before the pandemic. The trip wasn’t too inconvenient. It takes about an hour to get from Changi Airport to anywhere in Johor Bahru, especially in the early morning hours when the roads are quiet.

On the evening of November 2, the Sultan Ibrahim Stadium hosted the second leg of the Malaysia Cup semifinals. The home team, JDT, had already won the first leg 4-1 against Perak. On the day, JDT thrashed Perak 8-1 to reach the final for the fourth consecutive year. Among other unfamiliarities, I was struck by the state of the stadium, both on and off the field. It was incredibly clean. The level of cleanliness was frankly unreal. Flashsukan reporter Mohd Firdaus Zohari, whom I met before the match, let me in on the secret.

“TMJ really hates dirt. Even on non-match days, JDT’s home stadium and clubhouse are always spotless.”

TMJ is the initials for ‘Tunku Makota of Johor’. It means ‘Crown Prince of Johor’ and he is the owner of JDT. At the end of the 2013 season, TMJ attended a home game of Johor FC (as it was then called). At the time, the club was on the verge of bankruptcy. As is customary in Malaysian soccer, the owner, who retained only the title of owner, was disinterested in soccer. For the desperate home supporters, TMJ was their only hope. “TMJ, help us!”, “TMJ, save us!”

That day, the supporters’ plaintive chants finally reached the Sultan’s son. Soon after, TMJ made an official announcement to buy Johor FC. JDT fan Shakir Sidan (31, Aviation) says, “After hearing the chants that day, it was as if TMJ had made up his mind, ‘It’s time for me to step up.’ “We all cried when we heard the news of the takeover,” he recalls.

TMJ set to work on a major renovation of the club. The club was renamed Johor Darul Taqim and the supporters were renamed Boys of Straits. With overwhelming financial resources, JDT was able to snatch up the top stars of the Malaysian league. Within a year of the acquisition, JDT dominated the Malaysian League.

Creating a ‘real’ club through personnel changes

The real secret to turning JDT into a swan wasn’t money, but insight into the soccer industry. TMJ knew how a soccer club should be run. He brought in experts from Europe to draw up a roadmap for the club’s development. A youth academy was set up within the club, the first of its kind in Malaysia. Today, JDT operates with one to four age groups, from 12-year-olds to adults.

The training environment has also changed. TMJ imported advanced European coaching systems through a business agreement with Valencia. Even after the agreement expired, all of the personnel who flew in from Valencia stayed with JDT and have been working there ever since. As we entered the training center, Vijay Vik, head of public relations, told me, “You only hear Spanish and English here. The coaches are all Spanish and Argentinian,” he laughs.

The training center is equipped with state-of-the-art equipment, including a hyperbaric (oxygen) chamber and a zero-gravity treadmill. There’s a doctor on call and a sports nutritionist who customizes each player’s diet. There are two sides of natural grass, the same variety as the home pitch, and a semi-indoor training area in case of rain. “We’re building a new training center across the street from the home stadium,” says Vick. It will have 10 natural grass pitches. It’s going to be the best facility in Asia.”

JDT’s global workforce extends to general administration as well. The current CEO, Alistair Edwards, is a former Australian national sports administrator. After retiring from the game, he earned a bachelor’s degree in sports management and a master’s degree in business administration, and held managerial positions with the Australian age-group national team and A-League clubs. With an international owner and an Australian boss, the entire staff is fluent in English. This global culture has led to successful collaborations with global brands such as Nike, Weeblo, UNICEF, and IKEA.

The only Nike Premium Partner in Southeast Asia

The current home stadium, Sultan Ibrahim Stadium, opened in 2020. With a capacity of 35,000 seats, the stadium is modest in size, but it offers spectator circulation, interior comfort, state-of-the-art lighting, and a turf surface that ensures the best possible condition. StadiumDB.com, a website specializing in soccer stadiums, named it the 2020 Stadium of the Year.

Stadium tours are available at JDT’s home stadium at all times. In addition to regular tours, the club offers package deals that include accommodation and flights. A ride in a specially designed Hummer limousine is one of the hospitality offerings at the Sultan Ibrahim Stadium. The stadium is home to global F&B brands such as Subway, Starbucks, and KFC.

Currently, JDT is the only club in Southeast Asia to have a premium contract with Nike. It’s not an off-the-shelf customization like many K League clubs. It’s a “steamed partnership” where the brand designs it from scratch. Last season, UNICEF came to JDT for a partnership. Mr. Edwards (Australia) says, “Global brands now come to us first. They want to be a part of something ‘good’, a ‘good cause’, and they want to put their logo next to JDT, which is growing rapidly.”

The driving force behind the successful sponsorship business is JDT’s glory and presence. Currently, JDT has been the Malaysian champions for 10 years. In 2015, it became the first Southeast Asian club to win the AFC Cup (the lower tier of the AFC Champions League). In the 2022 season, the club reached the round of 16 of the AFC Champions League for the first time in its history. In Malaysia, the club already has national support and recently opened a fan chapter in Japan.

Building a fan base is essential for a soccer club. JDT’s colliers are full-time employees. There is also a fan-run fan shop in the stadium, separate from the official club shop. Paid collaborators may not sound familiar to Korean fans. However, professional sports in South Korea also employ cheerleaders and cheerleaders. FC Seoul has a cheerleading squad for every home game. Recently, JDT’s supporters, known as B.O.S, surpassed the 5,000 mark. Except for collaborators, supporters are fans. Think of professional baseball in Korea. The passionate support on the field is also one of the reasons why brands want to sign sponsorship deals.

Pros and cons of a monopoly

JDT has no competition in Malaysia. “JDT has no rival,” said Farhan Khair, a journalist from Media Digital Johor. As the 2023 season came to a close, JDT clinched the title with 23 wins and one draw from 24 matches. In the remaining three matches, JDT will aim to win the title for the second year in a row.

JDT’s monopoly has also proven problematic for the national team. Head coach Kim Pang-geon has always struggled to call up the national team. This is because most of JDT’s players are at the national level. TMJ has told the Malaysian Football Association that it is allowed to call up to 10 players. For the AFF Championship (commonly known as the Suzuki Cup), which is not on the FIFA calendar, JDT refused to send players. “There’s a perception in Malaysia that if the national team wins, it’s because of Kim Pang Gon, and if they lose, it’s because of JDT,” says Johari.

There are advantages, of course. JDT’s advanced club operations set a good example for Malaysian soccer. Clubs are starting to run youth academies. JDT regularly shares its know-how in player conditioning, injury treatment and rehabilitation within the league. “There will be a new Malaysian U16 competition next year,” says Edwards. “The higher the standard of the Malaysian league, the better JDT will be able to develop.

SuperRich soccer fanatic

Every interviewee I spoke to in Johor Bahru sang the praises of TMJ. While JDT would be a great sign for the crown prince, I was skeptical that anyone would invest that much of their “precious” time. “But have you ever talked to TMJ?” I asked each person I met. “I talk to him more often than my wife,” Edwards replied.

“One time we were winning 6-1 at home, and the game was over at 11:30 at night. All of a sudden, TMJ called a meeting. The manager, the executives, and myself went into the Sultan’s palace for a meeting at 12:30. TMJ raised the issue of set piece completion. As a soccer player, it was a valid point.”

Vick, the head of PR, also receives calls from TMJ himself every day. “TMJ’s office is just upstairs (on the third floor of the headquarters). He calls me all the time,” he says. When I asked him, “If you were offered a job by the Malaysian Football Association, what would you do?” he said, “I would definitely work for JDT. I can learn a lot from working here,” he says confidently.

“Earlier this year, TMJ invited us to the palace, where he and the fans had a serious discussion about the club’s future plans, how to develop, and what the fans want,” said Nick Musanif, 23, a member of the ‘B.O.S’ management team. “TMJ is the kind of person who solves any problem immediately, and once he has a plan, he always executes it.”

JDT Why the story is exciting

In professional sports, money and success go hand in hand. You win with money, and you need money to be strong. It’s no coincidence that all of Europe’s Big 5 league champions are among the top 10 in global revenue. The power of money is so great that it can be misused and abused. Málaga, Dortmund, Leeds United, and Valencia are just a few examples of clubs that have fallen victim to the curse of money. At the end of the day, how a club spends its money is what determines its success.

Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) is a club based in Malaysia’s second largest city, Johor Bahru. You’d be wrong to think it’s one of the more expensive clubs in Southeast Asia. They have a Starbucks and Subway at their home stadium, and European coaches working hard on the training ground.

Stadium tours, Nike’s “swoosh” on the chest of the jerseys, and collaborative marketing with IKEA are all things you’d expect to see at a big European club. We went to Malaysia to get a first-hand look at JDT, a club in the middle of Southeast Asia.

Strike it rich

I landed at Singapore’s Changi Airport and hopped into a pre-booked taxi. The direct flight between Incheon and Johor Bahru hasn’t been reinstated since before the pandemic. The trip wasn’t too inconvenient. It takes about an hour to get from Changi Airport to anywhere in Johor Bahru, especially in the early morning hours when the roads are quiet.

On the evening of November 2, the Sultan Ibrahim Stadium hosted the second leg of the Malaysia Cup semifinals. The home team, JDT, had already won the first leg 4-1 against Perak. On the day, JDT thrashed Perak 8-1 to reach the final for the fourth consecutive year. Among other unfamiliarities, I was struck by the state of the stadium, both on and off the field. It was incredibly clean. The level of cleanliness was frankly unreal. Flashsukan reporter Mohd Firdaus Zohari, whom I met before the match, let me in on the secret.

“TMJ really hates dirt. Even on non-match days, JDT’s home stadium and clubhouse are always spotless.”

TMJ is the initials for ‘Tunku Makota of Johor’. It means ‘Crown Prince of Johor’ and he is the owner of JDT. At the end of the 2013 season, TMJ attended a home game of Johor FC (as it was then called). At the time, the club was on the verge of bankruptcy. As is customary in Malaysian soccer, the owner, who retained only the title of owner, was disinterested in soccer. For the desperate home supporters, TMJ was their only hope. “TMJ, help us!”, “TMJ, save us!”

That day, the supporters’ plaintive chants finally reached the Sultan’s son. Soon after, TMJ made an official announcement to buy Johor FC. JDT fan Shakir Sidan (31, Aviation) says, “After hearing the chants that day, it was as if TMJ had made up his mind, ‘It’s time for me to step up.’ “We all cried when we heard the news of the takeover,” he recalls.

TMJ set to work on a major renovation of the club. The club was renamed Johor Darul Taqim and the supporters were renamed Boys of Straits. With overwhelming financial resources, JDT was able to snatch up the top stars of the Malaysian league. Within a year of the acquisition, JDT dominated the Malaysian League.

Creating a ‘real’ club through personnel changes

The real secret to turning JDT into a swan wasn’t money, but insight into the soccer industry. TMJ knew how a soccer club should be run. He brought in experts from Europe to draw up a roadmap for the club’s development. A youth academy was set up within the club, the first of its kind in Malaysia. Today, JDT operates with one to four age groups, from 12-year-olds to adults.

The training environment has also changed. TMJ imported advanced European coaching systems through a business agreement with Valencia. Even after the agreement expired, all of the personnel who flew in from Valencia stayed with JDT and have been working there ever since. As we entered the training center, Vijay Vik, head of public relations, told me, “You only hear Spanish and English here. The coaches are all Spanish and Argentinian,” he laughs.

The training center is equipped with state-of-the-art equipment, including a hyperbaric (oxygen) chamber and a zero-gravity treadmill. There’s a doctor on call and a sports nutritionist who customizes each player’s diet. There are two sides of natural grass, the same variety as the home pitch, and a semi-indoor training area in case of rain. “We’re building a new training center across the street from the home stadium,” says Vick. It will have 10 natural grass pitches. It’s going to be the best facility in Asia.”

JDT’s global workforce extends to general administration as well. The current CEO, Alistair Edwards, is a former Australian national sports administrator. After retiring from the game, he earned a bachelor’s degree in sports management and a master’s degree in business administration, and held managerial positions with the Australian age-group national team and A-League clubs. With an international owner and an Australian boss, the entire staff is fluent in English. This global culture has led to successful collaborations with global brands such as Nike, Weeblo, UNICEF, and IKEA.

The only Nike Premium Partner in Southeast Asia

The current home stadium, Sultan Ibrahim Stadium, opened in 2020. With a capacity of 35,000 seats, the stadium is modest in size, but it offers spectator circulation, interior comfort, state-of-the-art lighting, and a turf surface that ensures the best possible condition. StadiumDB.com, a website specializing in soccer stadiums, named it the 2020 Stadium of the Year.

Stadium tours are available at JDT’s home stadium at all times. In addition to regular tours, the club offers package deals that include accommodation and flights. A ride in a specially designed Hummer limousine is one of the hospitality offerings at the Sultan Ibrahim Stadium. The stadium is home to global F&B brands such as Subway, Starbucks, and KFC.

Currently, JDT is the only club in Southeast Asia to have a premium contract with Nike. It’s not an off-the-shelf customization like many K League clubs. It’s a “steamed partnership” where the brand designs it from scratch. Last season, UNICEF came to JDT for a partnership. Mr. Edwards (Australia) says, “Global brands now come to us first. They want to be a part of something ‘good’, a ‘good cause’, and they want to put their logo next to JDT, which is growing rapidly.”

The driving force behind the successful sponsorship business is JDT’s glory and presence. Currently, JDT has been the Malaysian champions for 10 years. In 2015, it became the first Southeast Asian club to win the AFC Cup (the lower tier of the AFC Champions League). In the 2022 season, the club reached the round of 16 of the AFC Champions League for the first time in its history. In Malaysia, the club already has national support and recently opened a fan chapter in Japan.

Building a fan base is essential for a soccer club. JDT’s colliers are full-time employees. There is also a fan-run fan shop in the stadium, separate from the official club shop. Paid collaborators may not sound familiar to Korean fans. However, professional sports in South Korea also employ cheerleaders and cheerleaders. FC Seoul has a cheerleading squad for every home game. Recently, JDT’s supporters, known as B.O.S, surpassed the 5,000 mark. Except for collaborators, supporters are fans. Think of professional baseball in Korea. The passionate support on the field is also one of the reasons why brands want to sign sponsorship deals.

Pros and cons of a monopoly

JDT has no competition in Malaysia. “JDT has no rival,” said Farhan Khair, a journalist from Media Digital Johor. As the 2023 season came to a close, JDT clinched the title with 23 wins and one draw from 24 matches. In the remaining three matches, JDT will aim to win the title for the second year in a row.

JDT’s monopoly has also proven problematic for the national team. Head coach Kim Pang-geon has always struggled to call up the national team. This is because most of JDT’s players are at the national level. TMJ has told the Malaysian Football Association that it is allowed to call up to 10 players. For the AFF Championship (commonly known as the Suzuki Cup), which is not on the FIFA calendar, JDT refused to send players. “There’s a perception in Malaysia that if the national team wins, it’s because of Kim Pang Gon, and if they lose, it’s because of JDT,” says Johari.

There are advantages, of course. JDT’s advanced club operations set a good example for Malaysian soccer. Clubs are starting to run youth academies. JDT regularly shares its know-how in player conditioning, injury treatment and rehabilitation within the league. “There will be a new Malaysian U16 competition next year,” says Edwards. “The higher the standard of the Malaysian league, the better JDT will be able to develop.

SuperRich soccer fanatic

Every interviewee I spoke to in Johor Bahru sang the praises of TMJ. While JDT would be a great sign for the crown prince, I was skeptical that anyone would invest that much of their “precious” time. “But have you ever talked to TMJ?” I asked each person I met. “I talk to him more often than my wife,” Edwards replied.

“One time we were winning 6-1 at home, and the game was over at 11:30 at night. All of a sudden, TMJ called a meeting. The manager, the executives, and myself went into the Sultan’s palace for a meeting at 12:30. TMJ raised the issue of set piece completion. As a soccer player, it was a valid point.”

Vick, the head of PR, also receives calls from TMJ himself every day. “TMJ’s office is just upstairs (on the third floor of the headquarters). He calls me all the time,” he says. When I asked him, “If you were offered a job by the Malaysian Football Association, what would you do?” he said, “I would definitely work for JDT. I can learn a lot from working here,” he says confidently.

“Earlier this year, TMJ invited us to the palace, where he and the fans had a serious discussion about the club’s future plans, how to develop, and what the fans want,” said Nick Musanif, 23, a member of the ‘B.O.S’ management team. “TMJ is the kind of person who solves any problem immediately, and once he has a plan, he always executes it.”

JDT Why the story is exciting

In professional sports, money and success go hand in hand. You win with money, and you need money to be strong. It’s no coincidence that all of Europe’s Big 5 league champions are among the top 10 in global revenue. The power of money is so great that it can be misused and abused. Málaga, Dortmund, Leeds United, and Valencia are just a few examples of clubs that have fallen victim to the curse of money. At the end of the day, how a club spends its money is what determines its success.

Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) is a club based in Malaysia’s second largest city, Johor Bahru. You’d be wrong to think it’s one of the more expensive clubs in Southeast Asia. They have a Starbucks and Subway at their home stadium, and European coaches working hard on the training ground.

Stadium tours, Nike’s “swoosh” on the chest of the jerseys, and collaborative marketing with IKEA are all things you’d expect to see at a big European club. We went to Malaysia to get a first-hand look at JDT, a club in the middle of Southeast Asia.

Strike it rich

I landed at Singapore’s Changi Airport and hopped into a pre-booked taxi. The direct flight between Incheon and Johor Bahru hasn’t been reinstated since before the pandemic. The trip wasn’t too inconvenient. It takes about an hour to get from Changi Airport to anywhere in Johor Bahru, especially in the early morning hours when the roads are quiet.

On the evening of November 2, the Sultan Ibrahim Stadium hosted the second leg of the Malaysia Cup semifinals. The home team, JDT, had already won the first leg 4-1 against Perak. On the day, JDT thrashed Perak 8-1 to reach the final for the fourth consecutive year. Among other unfamiliarities, I was struck by the state of the stadium, both on and off the field. It was incredibly clean. The level of cleanliness was frankly unreal. Flashsukan reporter Mohd Firdaus Zohari, whom I met before the match, let me in on the secret.

“TMJ really hates dirt. Even on non-match days, JDT’s home stadium and clubhouse are always spotless.”

TMJ is the initials for ‘Tunku Makota of Johor’. It means ‘Crown Prince of Johor’ and he is the owner of JDT. At the end of the 2013 season, TMJ attended a home game of Johor FC (as it was then called). At the time, the club was on the verge of bankruptcy. As is customary in Malaysian soccer, the owner, who retained only the title of owner, was disinterested in soccer. For the desperate home supporters, TMJ was their only hope. “TMJ, help us!”, “TMJ, save us!”

That day, the supporters’ plaintive chants finally reached the Sultan’s son. Soon after, TMJ made an official announcement to buy Johor FC. JDT fan Shakir Sidan (31, Aviation) says, “After hearing the chants that day, it was as if TMJ had made up his mind, ‘It’s time for me to step up.’ “We all cried when we heard the news of the takeover,” he recalls.

TMJ set to work on a major renovation of the club. The club was renamed Johor Darul Taqim and the supporters were renamed Boys of Straits. With overwhelming financial resources, JDT was able to snatch up the top stars of the Malaysian league. Within a year of the acquisition, JDT dominated the Malaysian League.

Creating a ‘real’ club through personnel changes

The real secret to turning JDT into a swan wasn’t money, but insight into the soccer industry. TMJ knew how a soccer club should be run. He brought in experts from Europe to draw up a roadmap for the club’s development. A youth academy was set up within the club, the first of its kind in Malaysia. Today, JDT operates with one to four age groups, from 12-year-olds to adults.

The training environment has also changed. TMJ imported advanced European coaching systems through a business agreement with Valencia. Even after the agreement expired, all of the personnel who flew in from Valencia stayed with JDT and have been working there ever since. As we entered the training center, Vijay Vik, head of public relations, told me, “You only hear Spanish and English here. The coaches are all Spanish and Argentinian,” he laughs.

The training center is equipped with state-of-the-art equipment, including a hyperbaric (oxygen) chamber and a zero-gravity treadmill. There’s a doctor on call and a sports nutritionist who customizes each player’s diet. There are two sides of natural grass, the same variety as the home pitch, and a semi-indoor training area in case of rain. “We’re building a new training center across the street from the home stadium,” says Vick. It will have 10 natural grass pitches. It’s going to be the best facility in Asia.”

JDT’s global workforce extends to general administration as well. The current CEO, Alistair Edwards, is a former Australian national sports administrator. After retiring from the game, he earned a bachelor’s degree in sports management and a master’s degree in business administration, and held managerial positions with the Australian age-group national team and A-League clubs. With an international owner and an Australian boss, the entire staff is fluent in English. This global culture has led to successful collaborations with global brands such as Nike, Weeblo, UNICEF, and IKEA.

The only Nike Premium Partner in Southeast Asia

The current home stadium, Sultan Ibrahim Stadium, opened in 2020. With a capacity of 35,000 seats, the stadium is modest in size, but it offers spectator circulation, interior comfort, state-of-the-art lighting, and a turf surface that ensures the best possible condition. StadiumDB.com, a website specializing in soccer stadiums, named it the 2020 Stadium of the Year.레모나토토 도메인

Stadium tours are available at JDT’s home stadium at all times. In addition to regular tours, the club offers package deals that include accommodation and flights. A ride in a specially designed Hummer limousine is one of the hospitality offerings at the Sultan Ibrahim Stadium. The stadium is home to global F&B brands such as Subway, Starbucks, and KFC.

Currently, JDT is the only club in Southeast Asia to have a premium contract with Nike. It’s not an off-the-shelf customization like many K League clubs. It’s a “steamed partnership” where the brand designs it from scratch. Last season, UNICEF came to JDT for a partnership. Mr. Edwards (Australia) says, “Global brands now come to us first. They want to be a part of something ‘good’, a ‘good cause’, and they want to put their logo next to JDT, which is growing rapidly.”

The driving force behind the successful sponsorship business is JDT’s glory and presence. Currently, JDT has been the Malaysian champions for 10 years. In 2015, it became the first Southeast Asian club to win the AFC Cup (the lower tier of the AFC Champions League). In the 2022 season, the club reached the round of 16 of the AFC Champions League for the first time in its history. In Malaysia, the club already has national support and recently opened a fan chapter in Japan.

Building a fan base is essential for a soccer club. JDT’s colliers are full-time employees. There is also a fan-run fan shop in the stadium, separate from the official club shop. Paid collaborators may not sound familiar to Korean fans. However, professional sports in South Korea also employ cheerleaders and cheerleaders. FC Seoul has a cheerleading squad for every home game. Recently, JDT’s supporters, known as B.O.S, surpassed the 5,000 mark. Except for collaborators, supporters are fans. Think of professional baseball in Korea. The passionate support on the field is also one of the reasons why brands want to sign sponsorship deals.

Pros and cons of a monopoly

JDT has no competition in Malaysia. “JDT has no rival,” said Farhan Khair, a journalist from Media Digital Johor. As the 2023 season came to a close, JDT clinched the title with 23 wins and one draw from 24 matches. In the remaining three matches, JDT will aim to win the title for the second year in a row.

JDT’s monopoly has also proven problematic for the national team. Head coach Kim Pang-geon has always struggled to call up the national team. This is because most of JDT’s players are at the national level. TMJ has told the Malaysian Football Association that it is allowed to call up to 10 players. For the AFF Championship (commonly known as the Suzuki Cup), which is not on the FIFA calendar, JDT refused to send players. “There’s a perception in Malaysia that if the national team wins, it’s because of Kim Pang Gon, and if they lose, it’s because of JDT,” says Johari.

There are advantages, of course. JDT’s advanced club operations set a good example for Malaysian soccer. Clubs are starting to run youth academies. JDT regularly shares its know-how in player conditioning, injury treatment and rehabilitation within the league. “There will be a new Malaysian U16 competition next year,” says Edwards. “The higher the standard of the Malaysian league, the better JDT will be able to develop.

SuperRich soccer fanatic

Every interviewee I spoke to in Johor Bahru sang the praises of TMJ. While JDT would be a great sign for the crown prince, I was skeptical that anyone would invest that much of their “precious” time. “But have you ever talked to TMJ?” I asked each person I met. “I talk to him more often than my wife,” Edwards replied.

“One time we were winning 6-1 at home, and the game was over at 11:30 at night. All of a sudden, TMJ called a meeting. The manager, the executives, and myself went into the Sultan’s palace for a meeting at 12:30. TMJ raised the issue of set piece completion. As a soccer player, it was a valid point.”

Vick, the head of PR, also receives calls from TMJ himself every day. “TMJ’s office is just upstairs (on the third floor of the headquarters). He calls me all the time,” he says. When I asked him, “If you were offered a job by the Malaysian Football Association, what would you do?” he said, “I would definitely work for JDT. I can learn a lot from working here,” he says confidently.

“Earlier this year, TMJ invited us to the palace, where he and the fans had a serious discussion about the club’s future plans, how to develop, and what the fans want,” said Nick Musanif, 23, a member of the ‘B.O.S’ management team. “TMJ is the kind of person who solves any problem immediately, and once he has a plan, he always executes it.”

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