Kick-off! Postponed OPL to get underway today

The much-awaited start to the 2015-16 domestic football season - which was postponed once and then witnessed a farcical season-opener - is finally set to kick off with three matches of the Omantel Professional League (OPL) on Monday.

The third edition of the OPL was initially scheduled to start on August 19, but the Oman Football Association (OFA) was forced to postpone it to September 13 following requests from five of the 14 OPL clubs.

As if the delay was not frustrating enough, the season witnessed a controversial start. The Super Cup, the traditional season-starter, was won by Fanja without kicking a ball as its rival, Al Arouba, didn't turn up for the match in protest over various issues with the OFA.

Arouba is the defending OPL and His Majesty's Cup champion.

It seems the dust has finally settled and the third edition of the OPL will begin on Monday. The remaining four games of the OPL's opening round will be played on Tuesday.

Al Arouba will start its title defence with an away game against Salalah on Tuesday, while last year's runner-up, Fanja, will meet Muscat at the Seeb Sports Stadium on Monday. Also on Monday, Al Nasr will host Al Suwaiq in Salalah and Al Nahda will take on Musannah in Buraimi.

The start of the OPL has been overshadowed by niggling disagreements between the OFA and a number of clubs.

Speaking to Muscat Daily on Saturday, Sultan al Zadjali, the chief executive of the OFA, said, “We are happy to finally start our league. There were certain issues that the clubs were not happy with, but at a meeting last Thursday, we thrashed out all problems and reached an agreement.”

The main reason for a lingering discord was a circular that the OFA had sent out to all the OPL clubs last month, stating that monetary aid to them would be slashed in view of an ongoing financial crunch at the national association.

The clubs protested and a few even threatened to pull out of the OPL. However, at Thursday's marathon meeting, the clubs agreed on a fresh financial arrangement that retains the clubs' share of the OFA's marketing revenue.

Each club will now get RO32,000 for the season, which is RO9,500 less than what they received last season. However, all new marketing deals to be signed by the OFA will have 60 per cent of the receipts allocated to the clubs.

Another issue that has been a bone of contention for the OFA and the clubs has been the TV telecast. Zadjali said he was hopeful of reaching a solution on the telecast wrangle, with Oman TV set to air the OPL matches. At present, the OFA doesn’t receive any money from Oman TV for telecasting the games.

“We hope to get the matches telecast. The clubs have clearly warned us that if they do not get any revenue from the telecast, then they would not want their matches to go on air. We are hopeful of wrapping up a deal by Monday with the Public Authority for Radio and TV,” Zadjali said.

Sheikh Shabib al Hosni, the OPL's chief executive, said, “This is the third edition of the professional league and I thank all the stakeholders who have made it a successful event. All preparations are in place and I hope to see a lot of fans going to the ground to watch the matches in a domestic season that promises to be exciting.”

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