The Cambodian Premier League (CPL)’s announcement that it will not extend the contract of CEO Satoshi Saito when it expires at the end of this year has drawn widespread criticism from social media users.

Many CPL fans took to the league’s Facebook page to share their disappointment at the decision, referring to it as a “backwards step”, and expressing their sympathy for the departed Japanese CEO. The majority of the commentators thanked Saito for what they described as the successful growth of the league during his tenure.

But Sao Sokha, president of the Football Federation of Cambodia (FFC), took to social media to clarify the decision, and assuage the fears of some football fans.

“To all of you who have expressed concerns over the decision not to extend his contract, there are some things you need to understand. First, he promised us to find at least $3,000,000 in sponsorship per season for the time he was in charge of the CPL,” he said.

“We have paid him hundreds of thousands of dollars. We hired him because he is a Japanese national, and we believed in him,” he added.

He explained that in order to collect the money to pay Saito’s salary, the FFC had established a league company, creating shares and shareholders with the companies who sponsored the CPL and its teams.

Unfortunately, the CEO was unable to find sponsors, as promised. The funding had all been used up, according to Sokha.

“I was the one who negotiated $500,000 in sponsorship from the Metfone Company since 2018. This was handed over to Saito, along with the budget created by the league company,” he added.

Saito assumed the role of CEO in October 2021, and ushered in significant changes to the Kingdom’s football landscape during the time of his tenure.

The announcement that his contract would not be renewed was detailed in an October 31 press release, following a meeting of the CPL’s Board of Directors, and representatives from each of the league’s football clubs.

Saito’s departure marks a surprising turn of events, given many people’s perception of his substantial contributions to raising the standard of Cambodian football through his international experience.