FAS: S.League to be feeder base for Asean Super League
S.League set to play a feeder role to regional club competition
The Asean Super League (ASL) is on track for a 2017 kick-off.
And the local S.League will soon transform itself so it can become an "important base" for the regional club competition.
At the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) Annual General Meeting at the Jalan Besar Stadium yesterday evening, the FAS made it clear that it will make the ASL its top priority in the next few years.
"A lot of people have spoken about this, there have been many views," said FAS president Zainudin Nordin.
"It is something that is going to happen.
"This (South-east Asia) is a region of 600 million people crazy about football. You have an international competition, the AFF Suzuki Cup, then all the local leagues.
"The jump between going from (local) leagues to the Korean, Japanese, or European leagues, is just too big.
"This region requires an intermediate regional league.
"We need to fill in this gap with the Asean Super League. And it will happen. And, in my view, this is something very exciting."
According to S.League chief executive officer Lim Chin, the league will be "streamlined" so it fulfils a role as a feeder to the Singapore franchise competing in the ASL.
The S.League, entering its 21st season in 2016, has suffered from a lack of fan support in recent years, underwent an exhaustive review this year as football administrators attempt to chart its path from 2017 onwards.
It is understood the FAS has decided to look at moving it towards a more vibrant "developmental model" which is able to consistently churn out talented young local players.
Said Lim: "After the one-year review, we found all our stakeholders... agree that the most important objective for all (FAS) entities is to have a very strong national team.
"So, if we agree the ASL will be a good platform for us to build a strong national team, then we should all streamline and work together to achieve that.
"The S.League has to find (out) how it fits into this ecosystem, to support a strong ASL team, which will in turn be a strong national team.
"We're going to continue to look at this transformation in the coming months... The ASL team cannot exist on their own.
"The S.League, we think, is an important base where our professional footballers can fight for a place in this ASL team and, from then on, go beyond Asean, hopefully."
FAS vice-president Edwin Tong said losing S.League players to the ASL should not be considered a "setback".
Citing an anecdote of how Belgium's top stars ply their trades in the top leagues around Europe and not in the little-known Belgium Jupiler League, the Marine Parade Member of Parliament hopes local footballers can also ply their trade at higher levels in the future.
"We should look at it the same way," said Tong. "If our best S.League players graduate into the ASL team, it creates an opportunity for younger players to showcase themselves.
"We will then hear of new names... And that's the only way to keep the conveyor belt running."
While the move is aimed at breathing life into the flagging Singaproe football scene, some observers have wondered if Asean member federations such as Malaysia and Thailand, whose local leagues are thriving, would back the ASL.
But Zainudin retorted: "I would say from my interaction with colleagues from Asean, all of them have expressed positive views.
"All 12 members of AFF have put down in black and white their support."
He added that the ASL's regional league framework Fifa is in the process of approving would be applied all over the world, and that Asean would be "pioneers".