A letter dated January 19, from Cournot & Nash Co Ltd – also known as Muang Thong United management group – was recently obtained by The Phuket News, addressed to the President of FC Phuket.
The letter says that Cournot & Nash opened negotiations with the OrBorJor for permission to use Surakul Stadium, as it is the only stadium in Phuket that is certified by the Football Association of Thailand (FAT) for use at competition level.
“But unfortunately Cournot & Nash [and the OrBorJor] failed to reach a mutual agreement on the matter,” the letter reads.
“OrBorJor Phuket insists that as a business identity, FC Phuket and its management Cournot & Nash must pay stadium rent and must give the OrBorJor 10 per cent of ticket sales on each game.
“Cournot & Nash brought these terms and conditions to its board meeting, and the members of the board unanimously agreed to reject those terms. Cournot & Nash shall subsequently return the management rights and Division 1 play rights to FC Phuket.
“Cournot & Nash will remain FC Phuket’s ally and will be ready to help FC Phuket, but will not be involved in the team’s management.”
The letter was signed by Ronnarit Suewaja, Managing Director of Cournot & Nash, and general manager of Muang Thong United.
A telephone interview with FC Phuket consultant Paitoon ‘Ko Men’ Chutimakornkul, who was also present at the board meeting, revealed that Cournot & Nash were ready to send their administrative team to Phuket in preparation for next season, but the stadium issue brought them to a halt.
“Cournot & Nash and Muang Thong United are taking a big risk coming to Phuket. They were ready to pitch in at least B3 million per month – a total of B36 million this season – and this was before any kind of sponsorship. This is out of their own pocket.
“But when the OrBorJor came up with these terms and conditions that we couldn’t agree to, we had no choice but to terminate our management prospect.”
There is no indication of how much rent was being sought for use of the stadium.
Fans took the news poorly, taking to Facebook to express their anger.
They aimed most of their criticism at the OrBorJor, with many singling out OrBorJor President Paiboon Upatising as the man responsible for the deal falling through.
“When the [Office of the Auditor General of Thailand] investigated the illegal funding [from the OrBorJor], Paiboon was first to bail. He quit and run, left FC Phuket management, staff and footballers to fend for themselves. But when Prime Minister Yingluck [Shinawatra] promised to clear the funding issue, he [Paiboon] was first to turn around and run back again,” one post read.
Football Siam TV picked up on the drama and carried a brief interview with FC Phuket captain Suphat Ontthong.
He said, “They didn’t really want to back out, but it seems they had no choice. I believe Muang Thong United will not forsake us. Most of all, Ko Men will not forsake us like this. I still hope and believe there will be a chance that things could work out for all of them and for the fans.”
On Wednesday afternoon The Phuket News was granted an interview with Mr Paiboon.
He said he had never received a formal request for permission to use Surakul Stadium.
“FC Phuket never told me anything as to who will manage the football team. I have never received a letter or any call from this company [Cournot & Nash] or Muang Thong United. I received only a phone call from Ko Men. And who is he? He does not represent Muang Thong United. He’s the President of the Sports Journalists Association of Thailand, not a company representative.
“[Surakul Stadium] is government property, it is taxpayers’ money. A company can’t call me and ask for a letter of permission to use the stadium. If any company, any business, wants to use the stadium to conduct their business, they must come to talk with me formally. There must be terms and conditions and regulations, things that must be discussed in detail.”
Mr Paiboon said the OrBorJor is more than ready to meet formally with anyone from FC Phuket, adding that he wants nothing more than to have a football team that bears the name FC Phuket remaining on the island.
“I would like to tell everyone, all fans and football management, that this stadium is government property. It belongs to the people of Phuket. The OrBorJor only takes care of the property on behalf of the people.
“The OrBorJor is not trying to sabotage FC Phuket as some people claim. I want nothing more than to have a football team that will be the pride of Phuket.
“But for me and for the OrBorJor, when it comes to the public interest, transparency is the key virtue. No one can just call me off the record and expect me to give permission to use the government’s property this way. If they want to talk, I would be more than ready to talk to them in front of all FC Phuket fans.”