Asean Super League dead in the water
AFC gen sec John confirms official correspondence from organisers who will not pursue proposed league
It was first conceived over a decade ago, and was aimed at raising the collective standard of football in South-east Asia.
The Asean Super League (ASL) has seen one postponement after another with 2018 pencilled in as the latest kickoff date for the regional league competition.
But that will not happen - the ASL idea is dead in the water.
Speaking to The New Paper at the Jalan Besar Stadium yesterday, Asian Football Confederation (AFC) general secretary Windsor John confirmed that the organisers of the proposed league will end their efforts to make it a reality.
"They have officially written to us saying that they are not pursuing the ASL," he told TNP on the sidelines of a press conference between the AFC and the Football Association of Singapore (FAS).
The ASL needs AFC's approval before it can launch, and John told TNP in an earlier interview that the green light has yet to be given, because the ASL needs to show that it can "organise the competition under the structure of the AFC", and around AFC competition schedules.
The AFC runs two regional club competitions - the top- level AFC Champions League and the second-tier AFC Cup - both working around the schedules of domestic leagues around the region.
At that time, ASL organisers could not demonstrate that they could manage that.
The Asean Football Federation (AFF) has set up a task force leading the charge for the ASL, with former FAS president Zainudin Nordin a key figure in the ASL which was proposed as a 10-team league with new franchises from across the region.
Neither the AFF nor Zainudin responded to TNP's queries yesterday.
TNP had earlier reported that the Philippines is one country that has already declared that it will not support the ASL, with the Philippines Football Federation (PFF) general secretary Edwin Gastanes saying that it will choose instead to focus on its own professional league that was launched in April.
"We have been forthright in our stand, and we must be honest - we must focus, prioritise and give emphasis to our pro league," he said then.
In an earlier interview with TNP, FAS president Lim Kia Tong expressed similar sentiments.
"If our own league is not doing well, then it doesn't make sense for us to send only a small group of players to form a team to participate in the ASL because that will benefit only this small group as opposed to the bigger picture of a more vibrant and successful S.League," he said.
Former Singapore international R Sasikumar, whose sports marketing company is working with the PFF on its Philippines Football League believes that it is good news for domestic leagues that the ASL will not happen.
"It was a project that was always hard to push through as there was no buy-in at the highest level and also at association level. Key Asean countries like Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam and Malaysia seemed lukewarm to the concept," he told TNP yesterday.
"Without the huge fan base from these countries that would have driven the commercial value of the ASL, there was nothing to sell.
"Trying to attract fans to a new franchise is always a challenge and the ASL would have to burn a lot of money trying to win fans over.
"The staying power of sports franchises is always a question, especially with an existing solid club culture in the markets described above," he added.