Stop me if you've heard this one: the Indonesian Premier League is in chaos again.
Wednesday was the deadline for the 24 original IPL clubs — 14 from the Indonesian Super League, 10 promoted from the second division and three rebel clubs welcomed back into the fold — to "re-register" with league administrators. Apparently not everyone was keen on the idea. Persisam Samarinda, Persela Lamongan, Persiba Balikpapan, PSPS Pekanbaru, Pelita Jaya and Deltras Sidoarjo did not send in their re-registration forms and have been left out of the new, slimmed-down IPL. I've yet to hear any reasons why they did didn't re-register, but I have a feeling their dissatisfaction with the PSSI and league administrator has something to do with it.
If we just go by this, the IPL, whenever it starts, will consist of eight former ISL clubs — Persipura Jayapura (defending champion), Arema Indonesia (under new, PSSI-approved ownership), Persija Jakarta (see previous), Semen Padang, Sriwijaya FC, Persib Bandung, Persiwa Wamena and Persijap Jepara — the seven clubs promoted, by means fair or foul, from the Premier Division — Persidafon Dafonsoro, Mitra Kukar, Persiba Bantul, Persiraja Banda Aceh, Bontang FC, PSMS Medan and Persebaya Surabaya — and former rebels PSM Makassar, Persema Malang and Persibo Bojonegoro.
Or will it? Persidafon's manager denies re-registering for the IPL, and I'm told PSMS would rather play in the second division than the IPL. More details will emerge in the coming days, especially as former league administrator Liga Indonesia (which partly kicked off this latest kerfuffle) has a shareholders' meeting today. It's worth remembering that trimming the IPL to 18 teams was one of the demands the "Group of 14" made in exchange for staying in the new league. Reinstating PTLI, giving clubs a 99 percent stake in the administrator and forking over a Rp 2 billion annual subsidy to each club will be more difficult, I imagine.
There might not be anything more sinister behind it, but at first glance it's as though the IPL asked "which clubs could we lose and suffer the smallest hit in terms of sponsor dollars and supporter eyeballs?" Aside from Persisam (sixth place), the departing teams all finished ninth or lower in last season's IPL and don't exactly command huge crowds. The PSSI would lose no end of face if it had to kick back one of the 10 clubs coming in from outside the ISL, and given how it blatantly disregarded league rules to promote PSMS and Persebaya, getting rid of big names like Persija, Arema, Persib, Sriwijaya and Persipura was never going to happen.
League patron and power behind the throne Arifin Panigoro gets to stick it his mortal enemy, the Bakrie family (which owns Pelita Jaya), as well. Once that pesky business over the broadcasting contract with ANTV gets cleared up, the Bakrie presence in Indonesian soccer will be all but eradicated. It's good to see some traditions — like using the country's favorite sport to settle personal vendettas between the rich and powerful — never change.