2016 launch for ASL?

2016 launch for ASL?
Ongoing construction works for the the Singapore Sports Hub

Football fraternities across South-east Asia have all fixed an asterix next to January 2015 on their calendars, the month the regional landscape of the sport was supposed to be transformed.

But the start of the ASEAN Super League (ASL) could be delayed, perhaps even until 2016, as there are administrative issues still to be ironed out.

"We already have in-principle blessings from (world football governing body) Fifa, and support from all (ASEAN) Football Associations, but there are several issues that we need to resolve," said Azzuddin Ahmad, secretary-general of the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF), corroborating information from sources within the industry.

He described the issues as "administrative".

"In our planning, the launch is in 2015, but if we can't iron out the issues, and do that well, why should we rush into it?" said Azzuddin, who is a member of the AFF sub-committee tasked with organising the ASL.

"Starting the ASL later, even in 2016, is a possibility."

The committee is headed by Football Association of Singapore (FAS) president Zainudin Nordin, with Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) deputy president Abdullah Ahmad Shah its adviser.

The ASL will feature at least one club from each ASEAN country, with a targeted 16 teams to compete in the inaugural year.

With each club expected to spend around $6 million per year, organisers believe the ASL can attract huge fan and sponsor interest in football-mad South-east Asia.

With its first season expected to run from January to August next year, the ASL has the support of Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president Sheikh Salman Ebrahim Al Khalifa.

But sources have revealed that there is a possibility some FAs are considering sitting out the first year.

"You might be right, some may not be participating in the first year," said Azzuddin, who nevertheless was bullish about the ASL.

He pointed to an incident at the recently concluded AFF-Japan Football Association Development Seminar in Osaka, where members of the AFF also had an internal meeting.

UNIFIED 'AYE'

He revealed that all ASEAN members had raised their hands in a unified "aye" when asked if they supported the ASL.

"We came to an agreement that the company (to be set up) that will run the ASL is to be based in Singapore," said Azzuddin, adding that the AFF members involved in the planning of the ASL could also be stationed here.

The Republic will be represented by a team provisionally named the Singapore Lions, with the club pencilled in to play their home fixtures at the new National Stadium at the Sports Hub.

With S.League chief executive Lim Chin earlier calling for a "direct connection" between the league and the ASL, and Teo Hock Seng, chairman of defending S.League champions Tampines Rovers, declaring his desire for his team to represent the country in the regional competition, there are some in the fraternity who believe that Singapore should be represented by two teams in the ASL.

But it all hinges on the organising committee being able to iron out the "administrative" issues at hand.

Said Azzuddin: "Together with the FAS, FAM and World Sport Group (AFF's marketing partners for the ASL), the AFF is working very hard to make things work."

The next organising committee meeting is scheduled for next week.

shamiro@sph.com.sg

This article was published on May 1 in The New Paper.

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