Thursday, April 18, 2013

ASL in the limelight

The proposed Asean Super League made the headlines yesterday. Here's the basic story in
Eight teams have been confirmed for the inaugural season of the Asean Super League, with six countries to be involved when it kicks off in 2015. The Asean Football Federation, the governing body for football in Southeast Asia, has shed further light on its plans for a Super League competition by stating that the inaugural season will kick off in 2015 with an initial eight teams. The eight franchise clubs will compete in a relegation-free division with a playoff system to decide the winner. The AFF is seeking eventual expansion to 16 teams for the annual Super League, with a limit on the number of franchises awarded to the key markets of Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore so that the likes of Myanmar and Laos can also compete. The season will be played from February to September so that it will not clash with the Asian Football Confederation's AFC Champions League or AFC Cup competitions. The AFF said a memorandum of understanding has been struck with its 11 member associations, while it is also keeping the AFC in the loop. The federation maintains the competition is not designed to supersede domestic leagues and instead seeks to build on football's huge popularity in the region and provide financial sustainability for struggling nations. "The member associations of the AFF were briefed on the potential benefits including the financial forecasts for the participating clubs," AFF council member and AFC vice-president Prince Abdullah Ibni Sultan Ahmad Shah told Reuters. "The concerns raised by the member associations, such as the impact to domestic leagues and the sustainability of the ASL were answered during the briefing [on April 3]." The AFF is expected to progress its plans after the AFC elects its new president on May 2. "The AFF has agreed to further develop the proposed concept of the ASEAN Super League together with [marketing agency] World Sports Group to be presented to the AFC in the near future," added Prince Abdullah.

Reuters added: Despite the huge popularity of football in the region and the success of the AFF’s Suzuki Cup - the biennial tournament for national teams in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations - South-east Asia has made little impact in the rest of the confederation, let alone globally.
Vietnam are the best side in the region at 132, according to the latest FIFA rankings released on Thursday, with Indonesia the only one to appear at a World Cup final after qualifying for the 1938 edition as the Dutch East Indies. Other issues have plagued South-east Asian football, including match-fixing, poor attendances and domestic disputes.

Meanwhile, Patrick Johnston wrote: While all these leagues suffer in a region that is more famous for its contribution to match-fixing than achievements on the field, Southeast Asian businessmen follow the fans and plough their money into England. Cardiff City’s Malaysian owners were celebrating on Tuesday as their Welsh club finally gained promotion to the lucrative English Premier League. They could swap places with another Malaysian-owned club, with Tony Fernandes’ Queens Park Rangers in dire relegation trouble, while another struggling side, Aston Villa, are sponsored by Malaysian gaming and plantation group Genting. Elsewhere in England’s second tier, three times League Cup winners and promotion-chasing Leicester City are run by Thailand’s King Power International. Last year, Singaporean businessmen Bill Ng came close to buying Scottish club Glasgow Rangers, while compatriot Peter Lim was in advanced talks about purchasing Liverpool in 2010. Asian money men also own Manchester City, Leeds United, Nottingham Forest, Blackburn Rovers and Birmingham City in the Premier League.

So where does that leave Cambodia? Lagging well behind the rest I would hazard a guess. If six countries are kicking off the ASL in 2015, I seriously doubt Cambodia will be included, with Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar and Philippines in the queue before us, and likely to get first dibs, with Laos, Brunei and Timor Leste trailing us. The talk of franchise clubs seems to open the door for brand new clubs to be formed, by wealthy backers keen to splash their name across the region. Not convinced there is the appetite for that in Cambodia at this time. But I could be wrong. We shall see how this develops.

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