ASL on track, says Zainudin
Consultation with AFC and Fifa ongoing, competition could even kick off next August
It has been about a decade since the Asean Super League (ASL) idea was first mooted.
The goal is to boost the standard of football in the region and generate excitement, with new club sides from each nation vying for supremacy.
Since then, there has been talk of domestic leagues baulking at the prospect of a new competition cannibalising their leagues and the scheduling headache in what is already a crowded football calendar.
Zainudin Nordin, the former president of the Football Association of Singapore (FAS), is spearheading the ASL taskforce.
Speaking to The New Paper, he acknowledged the concerns, but said: "The vision is for the project to be a game-changer and enabler to bring up the quality and professionalism of football in this region, and also to bring together the total population of over 600 million.
Zainudin also reiterated that the team who will represent the Republic in the ASL will not be funded by the FAS.
"It is important to recognise that it is not all about the member associations, who are not responsible for stepping up this league," he said.
"It is about the individual, the companies or the conglomerate who own and run the teams."
At home, there have been loud calls for even greater effort to be made to boost the S.League.
All the member associations have unanimously shown their support, even if not all the AFF countries will be represented in the first season. We will model the league after the best leagues in the world. Former FAS president Zainudin Nordin, who is spearheading the ASL taskforce
Zainudin said that the ASL, which comes under the umbrella of the Asean Football Federation (AFF), will transform the local football landscape.
"I believe there is enough talent in Singapore and we have always worked hard to make the S.League stronger in various ways and I trust that the FAS will continue to do so," he said.
"I hope people can look at the bigger picture and allow footballers to expand their horizon wherever they want to go.
"If the top local footballers are playing in the ASL, it will allow more talent to step up and be exposed in the S.League, which creates an ecosystem in which we can develop more players."
Although Zainudin did not commit to a specific launch date, it is understood that the ASL could start as early as next August.
An advertisement has already been placed on the Sports Recruitment International website for a full-time chief executive position for the ASL.
The 53-year-old added: "It is on track, there is no looking back now. We are making sure all the building blocks are in place.
"The AFF is working closely with both the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and Fifa in ensuring that the implementation of the ASL from concept to reality is done in consultation with the sanctioning bodies.
"All the member associations have unanimously shown their support, even if not all the AFF countries will be represented in the first season.
"We will model the league after the best leagues in the world.
"We have studied major leagues like the English Premier League, Major League Soccer, the A-League.
"We are in the midst of securing the clubs now. We hope to have around 10, or one per country (excluding Australia and Timor Leste), which will be good for a start.
"It will be in the owners' interest to have a good team but, that being said, you can be sure that there will be participation criteria which every team will have to adhere to in terms of finance, governance, leadership and management.
"There will also be a minimum period which every team have to fulfil, which will be determined in due time."
It is understood that every team will be allowed to sign four imports, two of whom have to be "world-class", and one more if they acquire a player from the AFC.
While the potential kick-off in August is in line with major world football leagues to facilitate the signing of top players, it could be trickier for local footballers as most domestic competitions in this region begin at the start of the year.
Zainudin is optimistic the issue can be resolved and said: "We will have to work out a transfer market system for the ASL clubs to compensate the local teams.
"These are all part and parcel of creating a viable ecosystem and bringing up the quality and professionalism of football in the region."