Turkish Super League began on August 14. Now, some top players started to follow Wesley Sneijder’s (Galatasaray) and Didier Drogba’s (former Galatasaray player) path. They were Lukas Podolski (Galatasaray), Robin van Persie, Nani (Fenerbahce), Samuel Eto’o (Antalyaspor), Mario Gomes and Ricardo Quaresma (Besiktas). Not to mention continued speculation linking Victor Valdes with a move to Galatasaray.

With the transfer of top players, it seems that Turkish league will be more attractive, especially for fans of big clubs (Beşiktaş, Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray). But behind the glamorous of world of new signings, Turkish league existence is being threatened.

Last season, the spectators has fallen dramatically. It happened since the implementation of new ticketing system called passolig by Turkish Football Federation (TFF). This system requires football supporters to acquire a card called passolig to buy a ticket. The problem is that the passolig contains personal details including name and bank account number.

Initially, passolig was introduced as implementation of Law Number 6222 of 2011 on Prevention of Violence and Disorder at Sporting Events. Hoooliganism taking place in big some of big matches triggered TFF to take strict measure, one of them was applying passolig system.

In fact, passolig was negatively responded by football fans. They boycotted the matches in protest at passolig. As a consequence, attendances in stadium dropped sharply. According to stadiumdb.com , the number of Beşiktaş, Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray fans fell by an average of 15.335, 22.241 and 16 255 people per game.

In a country like Turkey, football can’t be separated from politics. And passolig accused as a part of the attempts to spy on citizens. In addition, passolig also considered violating protection of personal data.

People in Turkey have used football as a tool to exercise freedom of expression. Passolig was implemented last season, 1 year after after anti-government protest in Gezi Park, Istanbul, which was spread to other cities in Turkey. At that time, supporters of Beşiktaş, Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray took to the street to participate in such protest.

In December 2014, Çarşı, a leftist supporter group of Besiktas, was indicted by prosecutor on charges of trying to overthrow the government of Prime Minister Reccep Tayyip Erdogan (now President of Turkey) on that protest. This result in lower public trust in government.

Withdrawal of Sponsorship

As of January 2015, due to the decrease in the number of attendance in stadium, Yildiz Holding withdrew as a sponsor. Yildiz Holding is a Turkish top business group which has become a sponsor of TFF, Fenerbahce and Galatasaray. In his letter to TFF, Murat Ulker, owner of Yildiz Holding (the richest man in the Turkey according to Forbes magazine) said that Turkish football brand value has dropped and the games become unattractive.

Ulker also criticised on passolig system. He said nobody wants their information to be collected. He also slammed TFF decision regarding foreign player quota. “Teams can now play with 11 foreign players. This is irrational. Then what will the Turkish players do?”

Yildiz Holding is known for its contributions to sport activities in Turkey. Over the past nine years, their contribution to Turkish football reached 215 million US dollars. The decision was really unfortunate, because it doesn’t rule out any other companies withdrawal from sponsorship.

Besides passolig and the withdrawal of sponsor, Turkish clubs are also in debt. According to data from the Stoxx Europe Football Index released by bloomberg.com, Beşiktaş, Fenerbahçe, Galatasaray and Trabzonspor were on the list of 22 football clubs with the highest debt.

Interestingly, despite the debt, Turkish clubs signed top players. Fenerbahce, for example, agreed to pay Van Persie as much as 6.2 million US dollars per season. Similarly, Galatasaray wasn’t left behind by bringing Lukas Podolski.

How could it be? Emre Deliveli, a Turkish economic consultant who was interviewed by bloomberg.com said : ” Galatasaray is buying because Fenerbahce is buying, and Fenerbahce is buying because Galatasaray is buying “.

Meanwhile, in April this year, some Besiktas assets were seized by court for its debt amounting to 3.8 million US dollars to an advertising company called Active Tanitim.

Security Threat

Last year, Donetsk’s Donbass Arena Stadium bombed as a consequence of conflict between the armed forces of Ukraine and pro-Russian separatist. As a result of this conflict, Shaktar Donetsk had to move its headquarters to Kiev and its training ground to Lviv.

The situation in Turkey is not as bad as in Ukraine. However, on 22 July, a suicide bombing by suspected ISIS supporters rocked Suruc (a city on the border with Syria). One of the participants of Super League, Gaziantepspor, has its headquartered in Gaziantep, which sits on the border between Turkey and Syria .

Potential security threat also faced by Istanbul and other cities. In fact, terrorist cells also spread in big cities. Fortunately, Turkish government responded by conducting large scale anti-terrorist operations in 13 provinces (including Istanbul) shortly after the bombing.

Other examples of terrorist attack which “disrupted” football competition were bombing of the British Consulate and HSBC building in Istanbul by Al-Qaeda terrorist network in 2003. As a result, 2 European matches, Juventus vs Galatasaray and Besiktas vs Chelsea, were moved from Turkey to a neutral venue.

In the end, the existence of Turkish football depends not only on the technical aspects of football. Social politics and economics aspect also play an active role. Business and technical aspect of football remain the domain of club and TFF. However, security is “absolute domain” of government. Will the Turkish football climb out of this crisis? Only time will tell.

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This article was translated from Indonesian. The original version has been published in Topskor Daily Sport Newspaper, 15 August 2015 . You can see the original version below .

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