What Asean Super League will mean for Singapore football

The launch of the ASEAN Super League (ASL) in 2015 is a timely boost for Singapore football. With 16 teams drawn from the 10 ASEAN member countries, the league-format competition promises to be exciting.

The timing is fitting as the ASEAN Economic Community is set to be launched in the same year. Sport is a unifier of people and I hope this is true for ASEAN too.

But what does it mean for Singapore football?

Most major cities in Europe have tiered support for clubs. That is, every city can support a limited number of "big" clubs, with a larger number of smaller clubs.

For instance, Greater Manchester in England is home to two highly successful and well-supported clubs - Manchester City and Manchester United. But it is also home to Bolton Wanderers, Wigan Athletic, Oldham Athletic, Bury and Rochdale.

With the ASL's launch, Singapore could consider creating three strong clubs - two to compete in the ASL, and one to play in the Malaysian Super League (MSL).

The LionsXII team competing in the MSL have shown us how a name can make a difference. A name like Balestier or Tanjong Pagar is unique but it is also very localised. Thus, someone living in Changi might not see the point of supporting this team.

The two teams competing in the ASL could have "Singapore" or "Lion" in the name, or any name broad enough to rally fans behind them.

Would this "cannibalise" our S-League? Currently, the league's fan base is small, but we should not do away with it.

The ASL launch may be a good time to revamp the S-League, in terms of its structure and form.

It is possible for so-called lesser leagues to thrive, albeit with smaller crowds. For example, the smaller clubs in Manchester may not have the same level of support as City and United, but they do have their own following.

A semi-professional S-League would present a viable platform to many aspiring footballers, to see if they have what it takes to go the distance.

Benjamin Goh

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