x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Super league plans will save domestic football in South-east Asia, claim organisers

The inaugural ASEAN Super League will bring together eight teams from the region from 2015 as competition organisers look to kickstart struggling local leagues.

Organisers of South-east Asia's first football super league insist the new competition will not mean the end of domestic football in the countries taking part.

Eight franchises will contest the inaugural ASEAN Super League in 2015, with organisers looking to expand the competition to 16 in future years.

A limit on the number of franchises award to key markets in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore will be imposed, to ensure the likes of Myanmar and Laos can take part.

Domestic football in many of the countries involved has struggled, with organisers hoping the new competition will spark interest in local leagues rather than killing off the game.

Clubs involved will use a licensing system to 'enable the region to realise its true potential' and improve integrity.

The competition, which will not involve relegation and will use play-offs to decide the champion, will be played over eight months from February-September. Organisers say it will not compromise the Asian Football Confederation's Champions League or AFC Cup tournaments.

"The Member Associations of the AFF were briefed on the potential benefits, including the financial forecasts for the participating clubs," said Prince Abdullah Ibni Sultan Ahmad Shah, vice president of the Asian Football Confederation.

"The concerns raised by the Member Associations, such as the effect to domestic leagues and the sustainability of the ASL were answered during the briefing."

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 finals after qualifying for the 1938 edition as the Dutch East Indies.

Indonesian football has been in free fall in recent times with a war for power between rival factions leaving the national team in disarray, clubs in perilous financial states and Paraguayan striker Diego Mendieta dead when he succumbed to a treatable disease after going unpaid for months.

In Singapore, the S. League has struggled to attract crowds - critics say the 12-strong league is too large for a city-state of around 5 million people - while Vietnam's 2013 domestic league has been postponed for months because of financial issues.

The Thai League has enjoyed a boom in recent years with big investment after a marketing blitz that attracted dozens of corporate sponsors, but Malaysia has struggled with matchfixing problems.

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