For some the final standing may have been disappointing, however, when you look back at what has been another topsy-turvy season for the club, the placing is actually not that bad. It certainly could have been worse, having gone through what they have, they could well have been relegated to D3.
Let’s go back to Dec 13, 2015, following Phuket FC’s relegation to D2, when then Club President Pramookpisitt Achariyachai announced that he and his family would no longer manage or be involved with the club.
The reasons he cited were mostly financial, but the fact that some fans would curse the team when they lost or didn’t play well, certainly didn’t help his enthusiasm. Not exactly the support required in times of trouble.
On Dec 29 that year, Cherng Talay OrBorTor Chief, MaAnn Samran was appointed as the club’s new president. At that time MaAnn said that he needed to raise about B10 million to fund the operation.
By Jan 7, 2016, MaAnn had confirmed that he had sourced the funds to ensure that the club could play in D2. He also announced the appointment of former Thai International Pittaya ‘Odd’ Phimanman as the team’s head coach.
Two weeks later, MaAnn announced changes to the nickname of the club, from the Ronins to the Andaman Dragon, thus also changing the logo to show a dragon on top of an outline of Phuket island and a football at the bottom of the crest.
Speaking to The Phuket News for the first time on Jan 21, Coach Odd said he had enough players to compete in the 2016 season and that 28–30 players had been signed, with about 30 per cent coming from the former Satun United team who had been disbanded due to financial difficulties.
But it was at the beginning of February that the fun and games began.
Over the weekend of Feb 6-7, rumours began to circulate that the club was going to be offered a spot back in League 1. The rumours followed an announcement that there were two vacancies to fill in League 1 after it was established that two clubs who qualified to compete in the elite, Thai Premier League (TPL) would not be able to finance their respective teams.
At the same time, despite having already said that funds for the club been raised, it was announced that the club had decided to host a live music concert featuring performances from two of the country’s biggest rock bands, Labanoon and Big Ass.
The reason for the concert? – to raise much needed funds to support the club.
Sadly, the concert didn’t have the expected reaction and no more than 200 people, who were certainly not regular fans of the club, turned out.
To add further disappointment, on Feb 10, it was confirmed by Coach Odd that the Andaman Dragon would not be competing in League 1 as many had hoped, but in the AIS Southern Region Division 2 as previously believed.
Also at this time, it was announced that Satun United had managed to resolve their financial woes, and thus took back the players provided to Phuket. So Phuket would have to source more players with only weeks to go until the start of the season.
On Feb 25, just three days before the season was scheduled to kick-off, and after coach Odd had successfully recruited the additional players he needed to make up the squad, The Phuket News learned that the Football Association of Thailand (FAT) had postponed the start of the season by a month to March 26.
Then, just day’s later, MaAnn was called back to Bangkok to again submit papers to the FAT to confirm the team’s placing in Southern Region Division 2. This being the 3rd time papers had been presented.
While all this was going on, some Phuket FC fanclubs began to question MaAnn’s position with the club and its situation.
This resulted in MaAnn holding a closed-door meeting at the Katch meeting room, Limelight Avenue in Phuket Town on Mar 15 with heads of all the team’s fanclubs and The Phuket News in attendance.
During the course of that meeting MaAnn explained that Phuket FC had been left with no one to support it, and that he came in to take over because he was asked to.
He also said that the main objective of his taking over as president was to keep a football team for the island, and to be a supporter of the team.
Regarding the club’s financial situation, which had also come into question, MaAnn admitted funds were limited and that most of the team he had working for him were either close friends or family.
The season eventually got underway on Mar 20, a game which was drawn 0-0 away to Satun United.
But come June, just three months after the start of the season, the club was again brought into disarray.
A club insider had told Siam Sport Syndicate that 37 players employed by the club were owed two months’ wages, amounting to an estimated B1.6 million.
Moreover, it was confirmed that power and water had been cut at the club’s base camp, the FIFA tsunami memorial ground, between Phuket Town and Panwa Cape, with reports citing an unpaid utility bills amounting to B30,000.
At the same time, it was also rumoured that MaAnn was in the process of signing over rights of the club to another individual.
By June 23, The Phuket News had learned from an official associated with the club that all outstanding wages had since been paid. However, that official declined to say how or from whom the payments were made. He was also uncertain as to who would pick up the salaries for the month of June, as the much talked about takeover was yet to be finalised.
But despite there still being no formal announcement from any club official regarding the state of Phuket FC’s ownership or management, on July 7 Coach Odd confirmed that he was still working on preparing for the second half of the season which was set to start on July 10.
Just before the second half of the season got underway, on July 8, the official takeover of Phuket FC was announced at a press conference held at Royal Gems Pavilion in Thalang.
During the press conference it was announced that Royal Gem and Rayaburi Group had taken over the club’s management and that they had set up a new company to run the Andaman Dragon called Royal Raya Sport.
The new management explained that the ideology of the new set up would be to develop Phuket FC into a stronger and bigger team which will be capable of reaching the Thai Premier League.
Sadly, with the introduction of the new Thailand League Championship (TLC) division in the 2017 season, this will mean that even if the new management are able to build a team good enough to reach the Thai Premier league it is going to take them an extra year to do so.
The club will first have to fight their way out of the Southern Region Division 2 to the TLC – which without bigger funding than other teams in that division is no easy task. They will then have to gain promotion from the TLC to the Yamaha League 1, and then fight the hardest battle of all, a top two finish in League 1 and automatic promotion to the Thai Premier League.
In view of this huge task ahead, let’s hope that Royal Raya Sport really are in this for the long haul. At a minimum, it will be a three year journey to achieve their goal.