Funding woes hit asean league

Cambodia, Timor Leste and Laos can't get sponsors while others may field weaker sides

Cambodia have added to the uncertainty surrounding the Asean Super League (ASL), threatening to skip the proposed 2016 kick-off owing to funding issues.

Football Federation of Cambodia vice-president, Khiev Sameth, told The Sunday Times that the country will not be fielding a team as sponsors have not been forthcoming.

"I understand each franchise will cost around US$5 million (S$7.1 million) to run," said Sameth, who is also the vice-president of the Asean Football Federation (AFF), which is the organising body of the ASL.

"We don't have that kind of money. If we cannot get financial support, Cambodia will have to skip the first season at least."

It is believed that the franchise price tag includes travel expenses - given the league's home-and-away format - and a bank guarantee.

Sources said Timor Leste and Laos face similar problems sourcing for sponsors.

This piles the pressure on the ASL, touted as a game-changer featuring at least one side from each of the 12 AFF member nations, excluding Australia.

This newspaper reported in July that Malaysia and Thailand are concerned that the ASL will draw fans and media attention away from their strong domestic leagues.

While the ASL's organisers privately insist that they retain the two countries' support, sources said talks have hit a stalemate over the quality of the teams they will send.

The Thais have proposed fielding Bangkok-based team Port FC, currently 15th in the 18-team Thai Premier League.

Malaysian academy Frenz United have also been in discussions to send their Under-18 outfit.

The Philippines, meanwhile, are set to be represented by their national U-23 side, as it is focused on launching its own domestic league by early 2017.

There is also uncertainty over Indonesia's participation as their football association is currently suspended from international competitions by world football governing body Fifa.

First mooted in 2007, the ASL is fronted by the AFF and its marketing partners World Sport Group.

Football Association of Singapore president Zainudin Nordin is heading the AFF committee working on the mechanics of the new league, such as its composition and fixtures.

The LionsXII, currently competing in the Malaysian Super League, are expected to be Singapore's representatives, while the Singapore's Under-23 side, the Young Lions, could swop the S-League for Malaysian competition.

The ASL is still waiting for Fifa to finalise regulations for a framework for proposed regional leagues globally.

A decision is not expected any time soon. The Zurich organisation already has its plate full combating internal corruption and preparing for a special presidential election in February when incumbent Sepp Blatter steps down.

AFF general secretary Azzuddin Ahmad previously said that the ASL is on track to kick off its debut eight-month campaign in August next year.

This looks increasingly unlikely, especially if major players like Malaysia and Thailand continue to hold out while other member nations like Cambodia struggle to find the resources to compete.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 04, 2015, with the headline 'FUNDING WOES HIT ASEAN LEAGUE'. Print Edition | Subscribe