A few hours after the Southern Sea Kirin’s surprise 1-0 win over Nakhon Ratchasima (Korat) FC, the ‘Swat Cat Fan Club’ Facebook page was flooded by Korat fans alleging Phuket’s dirty tactics, which was labelled the “Lead and lay there” trick – effectively faking injuries to wind down the clock.
Such banter is commonplace on football forums, but the dispute then escalated well beyond the bounds of social media.
On Thursday morning, a major Bangkok-based sports media outlet decided to jump on the “Lead and lay there” bandwagon, accusing FC Phuket footballers of employing dirty tactics in order to waste time close to the final whistle.
They labelled the Southern Sea Kirin players a “disgrace” to Thai football. Football Siam TV, which falls under the umbrella of Siam Sports Syndicate Group, ran the story in their televised news bulletin.
The report was especially curious because it could not have been aired without the knowledge of Paitoon ‘Ko Men’ Chutimakornkul, who has acted as a high profile consultant for FC Phuket in the last few seasons.
He is also the supposed right hand man of Siam Sports owner Rawi Lohthong, who has personally invested millions of baht in the Phuket club in recent years.
FC Phuket also has extremely close contacts with Bangkok-based Thai Premier League side Muang Thong United, which also falls under Siam Sports Group umbrella.
The attack was unusual for a side which is often cited for having “media privileges” due to its close ties with Siam Sports, and many were left wondering how the report could have slipped past Ko Men.
When the Kirin returned to Surakul on Sunday to play out a 0-3 loss to Bangkok United, Siam Sports ran another critical online report, claiming that FC Phuket management had failed to make payments to their players, which had led to their poor performance on the field.
In the meantime, interim president Jirayus Songyos decided to step down from his position.
Mr Jirayus had been supporting FC Phuket financially since the Division 2 playoffs in 2010, but always shied away from the media spotlight.
Before he stepped down, he handed over nearly B2 million to the current management, estimated to be enough to cover expenses for the first two months of this season.
But this raised further questions – where did the money go if FC Phuket had not paid its footballers, and where was Siam Sports getting its information?
FC Phuket director, Soranun Sanae, was the first to respond to the reports, denying the reports of non-payment. He said that it was mutually agreed between FC Phuket and the players that they will get paid over a period of time instead of a usual monthly lump sum.
“We have worked out the salary issue with our footballers. I admit that FC Phuket is struggling financially, but we are working very hard to solve that.
“I’m very sure that every football team has its own problems, Phuket has this problem of our own, but it’s up to us to join together and get through this.”
Mr Soranun also revealed that although FC Phuket is looking for new sponsors for the team, it is currently in negotiations with a possible new major sponsor.
Though he didn’t give out any information on who the new sponsor may be, fans have been speculating that it may be Newin Chidchob of Buriram, though some still believe that with FC Phuket’s close ties with Muang Thong United through Ko Men, it might be Mr Rawi who steps in and saves the day.
Regardless, FC Phuket’s hopes of a scandal-free season have gotten off to very bad start.
This weekend FC Phuket travel to Khon Kaen. The match is currently scheduled for Sunday (April 8), at 6pm, though that may change to tomorrow (April 7) at 4pm.