LionsXII will be Singapore Lions in Asean Super League
Republic's team for regional league set to be called S'pore Lions
It may have suffered doubters from many quarters, even in other nations, but the seeds of the Asean Super League (ASL) have long been sown, and the formation of the new regional football competition has now entered its final furlong.
Organisers told The New Paper that the final hurdle left to cross is for world football governing body Fifa to finalise regulations for a framework for proposed regional leagues around the world - not just the ASL.
The ASL is formalising its own structure - both of its organisation and the format of the league, which is set for an introduction next year and a likely 2017 kick-off.
TNP understands that if the preferred Aug 2016 kick-off is not possible, the ASL will launch in January the following year, with each member association - excluding Australia - represented by at least one team.
They will all be new franchises and will feature the best local players from each country along with four foreign signings.
The August kick-off is preferred because ASL teams can then look to sign quality foreign players during the long European summer transfer window.
For the Republic, the LionsXII squad participating in Malaysian domestic football competitions will make the step up to the ASL. They will be provisionally named Singapore Lions.
Top local players could earn $30,000 or more a month, depending on whether there is a salary cap. Younger ones would start from $5,000 a month.
The Courts Young Lions, who are plying their trade in the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League, will step up and play in the Malaysian Super League (MSL), boosted by four foreign players who have been short-listed under the Foreign Sports Talent programme.
It is believed Timor Leste will sit out the first year of the ASL, which will feature a league competition and at least one cup tournament.
The aim is for the inaugural ASL champions to play in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League - the most prestigious club competition on the continent - the following year.
In response to TNP queries, ASL organisers said recently: "The ASL Company has been incorporated (in waiting) and we are working to get the approval for ASL from Fifa within this year. We are also awaiting the approval of the framework of regulations for existence of regional leagues that would be applicable worldwide."
An ASL workshop was held at the Amara Hotel last month, with the Asean Football Federation (AFF) Congress later in the month also witnessing discussions on the proposed new competition, which is seen as a game-changer for the region.
"The objective of the workshop and meeting was for the ASL committee to provide the AFF council members the update and progress of the ASL project and also the next course of action.
"It includes the approval of the action plan for implementation (subject to Fifa's approval) as well as the procurement of clubs into the professional league. We were encouraged to note that we have the complete support from the AFF members for this project," said organisers.
"We have also updated the ASL format and details to the members at last month's workshop, which include the league and knock-out competitions."
Down the road, there is also a possibility of a team from India and even Australia being invited to participate in the ASL.
ASL matches will feature on weekdays to prevent clashes with domestic leagues, which are mostly held on weekends.
ASL organisers are looking at one cup tournament, where the champions of the respective leagues will be in the mix with the teams from the regional competition.
It is believed the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) will soon announce a revamped version of the S.League that will adopt a younger demographic and be a feeder for the Singapore side in the ASL.
There has been much debate about the future of the S.League, with some touting a return to semi-professional days.
However, TNP understands that some clubs have been informed how the new competition will look like and are making moves to sign players and officials for next season.
“The ASL Company has been incorporated (in waiting) and we are working to get the approval for ASL from Fifa within this year. We are also awaiting the approval of the framework of regulations for existence of regional leagues that would be applicable worldwide.”
- ASL organisers, in response to enquiries by TNP