Phillippines reiterates opposition to ASL after launch of new pro league
South-east Asia will welcome a new professional league later this month, with the Philippines Football League (PFL) poised for its official launch on April 21.
With the eight-team PFL, which kicks off eight days later, taking the sport to football-mad regions in the Central Visayas and Southern Philippines, there is understandable excitement in the Philippines Football Federation (PFF).
And their stance on the proposed Asean Super League (ASL) is clear: No, thank you.
PFF general secretary Edwin Gastanes told The New Paper yesterday: "We have been forthright in our stand, and we must be honest - we must focus, prioritise and give emphasis to our pro league.
"We lack sufficient numbers of local players - clubs are fighting it out for them, and there have even been shouting matches (between the clubs) already.
"I believe people will understand. Our investors are limited, we have limited resources, but have high hopes for the league," added the lawyer, who asserts that the federation will not stand in the way of any organisation that wants to join the ASL.
First conceived over a decade ago, the ASL project has gone through several setbacks, and it remains to be seen if it will get off the ground.
Long periods of silence from its organisers have not helped to clear up the situation, although a 10-team league has been tentatively pencilled in for kick-off next year.
In a nation crazy about basketball and boxing, support for football has been growing.
The men's national team are now the top South-east Asian team in the Fifa rankings - they are in 127th place, two spots ahead of Thailand.
Their clubs have also been turning in decent performances in second-tier regional tournament, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup.
The Philippines' women's team recently qualified for the AFC Women's Asian Cup next year.
Red Card Global, a sports marketing agency led by former Singapore international R Sasikumar, holds the exclusive commercial rights to the PFL.
Said Sasi: "There is a 100 million population in a country that is showing growth in football, and this on a platform of 300,000 children playing at the grassroots level.
"With the national teams doing well, it is really about creating a product that fans can enjoy. We don't have massive money like Major League Soccer did when it first started, but it is about putting money in the right places and growing the sport."
A deal signed yesterday between the Philippine national broadcaster PTV and the PFL will see two "live" matches screened over the weekend, with delayed telecasts and a highlights show also thrown in.
Said Gastanes, who hopes to attract more sponsors: "There is tremendous regionalistic rivalry in the Philippines, and this league will take football into the communities of those regions that are hotbeds of Philippine football.
"We have plans to implement promotion and relegation after three years, and there has already been some interest from people who want to own franchises, but my only wish is that we get the full complement of sponsors by April 29."
- Ceres Negros
- Davao Aguilas
- Global Cebu
- Ilocos United
- JPV Marikina
- Kaya FC-Makati
- Stallion Laguna
- Loyola Meralco Sparks.