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Satoshi Saito Leaves Cambodian Premier League on Brink

Satoshi Saito the CEO of the Cambodian Premier League is reportedly leaving his position as the head of the organization, with the league reportedly on the brink of bankruptcy.

The news comes after more than a week of rumors about both the league and Satoshi Sato himself, with the rumblings of discontent among clubs seemingly having reached a breaking point.

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Who is Satoshi Saito and what went wrong?

A native of Japan, he was educated in Barcelona, from where he got his first football role, being part of the clubs drive to attract Asian fans, particularly in the Japanese market.

This eventually led to him becoming head of the new Cambodian Premier League at the end of 2021 with the remit of improving both the quality of the league and its finances. In interviews he talked about raising up to $3 million extra for the league, as well as seeing a “club in very province”.

To say results have been mixed would be a gross understatement. Some would certainly argue that the football and marketing has got better, but this has seemingly come at an enormous price.

Over the last year 9 clubs have either dropped out of the league, or gone bankrupt , including established clubs such as EDCFC and Asia Euro United, with the league actually regressing in numbers under his stewardship.

And the problems have not stopped there, with clubs in the second-tier CPL not only having their expenses cut, but regularly being paid late, again throwing the existence and survival of the league into doubt.

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$3 million spent in bad optics

Another element of anger for clubs has been the reported $3 million spent by the league, with very little to show for it. Clubs have not received extra money, there is still no sponsor for the league and as one manager put it there has been a culture of a “lack of transparency”.

This is despite the fact the huge amounts of money have allegedly been spent on events such as the annual CPL awards and the fact that Satoshi and his entourage are regularly seen attending games courtesy of a league provided driver.

The failures and bad optics do not stop there though, with the lack of a promised women’s and youth league proving not just controversial, but also having the potential to cause problems with FIFA for Cambodia.

What next for the CPL?

Despite the fact that some people have suggested that the league is now bankrupt and indeed many staff having already jumped ship, the most likely scenario is that the league will continue in its current form until at least the end of the current season.

Whether the FFC decide to put someone see at the helm, or decide to take over the competition themselves though is still yet to be seen.

In the short term at least though, there will have to be at least some steadying of the ship, with clubs in the second division, who are reliant on CPL money currently essentially on the brink of bankruptcy.

There is also an element of a crisis of confidence in the league and=football in general within Cambodia. Few would argue that the SEA Games were an abject failure, with national team results since then under the tenure of Felix Dalmas far from restoring faith in the national game.

Whatever happens next though the powers that be will have to add a lot to restore the faith of both fans and stakeholders alike if football within the Kingdom is to again flourish.

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