SINGAPORE - The launch of a Southeast Asian Super League (ASL) next year will have a detrimental effect on domestic competitions in the rest of the region, a high ranking Malaysian official said on Friday.
The ASL, which has had its start date repeatedly delayed, is expected to launch with 18 teams next year, one from each of the 11 members of the bloc and two from the more established countries like Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam and Malaysia.
However, Kevin Ramalingam, chief executive of a new body which will oversee the newly privatised local Malaysian competitions next year, was worried some of his best players would be taken away to play in the ASL.
"The general consensus is a domestic league season in Malaysia, or anywhere else in the ASEAN region, cannot sustain or support any other competition," the Football Malaysia Limited Liability Partnership (FMLLP) CEO told Singapore daily Today.
"If the ASL withdraws all the best players from our leagues, and put them to another league that is run separately where the income from the league doesn't support the local system, I fear that the other leagues will have the same problem as the S.League. The S.League is struggling."
The ASL was touted as a way of increasing competition and standards in the football-obsessed region, which has failed to make an impact globally.
Singapore are believed to be behind the push for the ASL but owners of local clubs in the citystate have warned the new eight-month league could be the final nail in the coffin for the S.League, which struggles for attendances and credibility.
The ASL is also expected to start without arguably its biggest market Indonesia, who are serving a FIFA ban for government interference, while a number of other issues are plaguing the local association of the members.
The identity of the participating teams remains unknown, but Malaysian media have reported their country will send a youth side from a local club to take part, while Thailand are expected to field a mid-table outfit from their domestic top flight.
Ramalingam said organisers faced a tough task to get fans on board for the new project, which has been ratified by the Asian Football Confederation.
"I hope it's successful, but it looks like a massive challenge," he said. "It is not going to be as straightforward as the organisers think it would be.
"Clubs will build its fan base slowly but how long will this take? Whether the ASL will be seen as attractive if it continues after three or four years with very minimal fans going into the stadium is the challenge."