While I see the benefits that a regional league such as the Asean Super League (ASL) would bring to footballers in the region, it would be detrimental to the sustainability of this initiative not to incorporate the domestic leagues into the structure ("S'pore to benefit from ASL, says FAS"; Wednesday).
Without this structure, team support - the most important component of any league - will slowly wane after the initial hype.
However, if the top teams of the individual Asean leagues have the opportunity to play in the ASL, then local support for the team will carry over into support for the team as it takes on the best in the region.
I have the following suggestions for the Asean Football Federation to consider as it puts together the framework for the ASL:
- For the inaugural ASL, have the local leagues send their top two teams.
- Have a promotion/relegation model where the bottom three ••teams in the ASL get sent back to their local leagues. The various local leagues can then have play-offs to replace them.
- Have a local player quota, Asean player quota and foreign player quota for each team.
- With the Asean quota, the best players in the region can move to the best teams in the region without affecting the foreign player quota.
- Do not allow teams to participate in the ASL unless they have already played and qualified via their local league.
In Singapore's case, we would be looking at Tampines Rovers and Balestier Khalsa to represent us, rather than the LionsXII.
These suggestions will help to drum up greater excitement in the local leagues, as their champions may prospectively play at a higher level in the following season.
We may well end up with an ASL dominated by Thai or Malaysian teams. But if the objective is to highlight the best teams in Asean, then so be it.