Ceres-Negros confirms plan to transfer ownership

End of an era for three-time defending PFL champion
Ceres-Negros pose for a team photo before its AFC Cup match against Indonesia's Bali United last March. (Ceres-Negros Images)

Ceres-Negros, Philippine football’s rags-to-riches story, formally announced on Wednesday its decision to transfer ownership of the decorated club.

Ceres management confirmed speculations that have been going on for weeks, saying that it is negotiating with investors that will take over ownership of the three-time defending Philippines Football League champion and regular AFC Cup participant.

Ceres-Negros players and staff pose after winning the 2019 Copa Paulino Alcantara. (PFL Images)

Philippine Football Federation General Secretary Ed Gastanes, in an online press conference, confirmed the federation received an official notice from Ceres.

The current management later clarified that the club is not for sale, and that it is only looking for a change in ownership.

Once the transfer is done, the club currently chaired by Leo Rey Yanson of the Bacolod City-based Vallacar Transit, will be renamed.

“This is one of the toughest decisions made by Mr. Yanson, whose passion for football was reflected at the way he poured his personal resources and steered the club to unprecedented heights since it was formed eight years ago,” Ceres-Negros said in a statement.

Ceres-Negros lifts the inaugural PFL crown after defeating Global-Cebu in 2017. (PFL Images)

Yanson, whose family owned a large fleet of Ceres buses in Visayas and Mindanao, formed the club in 2012 with a lineup of former national team players and Koreans from local colleges and universities.

Originally known as Ceres-La Salle for supporting the University of St. La Salle football program, the club made waves on the national level, winning the 2013 PFF National Club Championship in Cinderella fashion with wins over United Football League clubs Stallion, Global and Kaya before beating Pasargad 1-0 in the final.

With vast resources, Ceres quickly became one of the country’s premier clubs, winning the 2014 UFL second division, 2014 FA League Cup and 2015 UFL crown while figuring in a rivalry with Global.

The Busmen carried their success to the newly-formed PFL, claiming the first three editions of the pro league. All in all, Ceres took home nine domestic trophies, including a UFL and Copa Paulino Alcantara double in 2019.

Ceres-La Salle celebrates after winning the 2013 PFF National Club Championship with a 1-0 win over Pasargad in the final. (PFL Images)

They also participate in the continental AFC Cup on a regular basis, going as far as taking the ASEAN zonal crown in 2017.

Spanish striker Bievenido Maranon has made a name himself as Ceres’ top talisman while national team captain Stephan Schrock was also among the central figures in the club’s title runs. They are some of the top local and foreign players tapped by the Busmen during their title runs.

Ceres had been on a roll in this year’s AFC Cup, winning the first three matches before the COVID-19 pandemic forced a halt in the competition.

Rumors of uncertainty at Ceres swirled after Fil-Australian defender Joshua Grommen left the club last month, though PFF and PFL officials maintained in multiple interviews prior to Wednesday’s presscon that the club’s status remained on status quo.

Gastanes said the situation won’t cause any complications as far as Ceres’ AFC Cup stint is concerned. The AFC plans to resume action in a centralized venue in September.