Asean Super League to kick off in August 2016

Regional associations in favour, number of teams, matches and tournament format being decided

LionsXII's Hafiz Abu Sujad beating Perak's Mohd Idris Ahmad to the ball in their Malaysian Super League game. The Singapore team could be involved in the upcoming ASL.
LionsXII's Hafiz Abu Sujad beating Perak's Mohd Idris Ahmad to the ball in their Malaysian Super League game. The Singapore team could be involved in the upcoming ASL. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

After delays and despite lingering doubts about the participating teams, the Asean Super League (ASL) has been given a start date for its much-awaited kick-off.

In a phone interview with The Sunday Times, Azzuddin Ahmad, general secretary of the Asean Football Federation (AFF), said it is aiming to get the regional league off the ground next August.

He added that football's world governing body Fifa had given the go-ahead for the ASL.

Said Azzuddin: "Yes, the ASL is on track and will take place next year. We got the green light from Fifa. At the moment, we are scheduling it for August 2016.

"It will run for around eight months and we are now planning for the next five to six years."

Football Association of Singapore (FAS) president Zainudin Nordin is heading the AFF committee working on the mechanics of the ASL.

Azzuddin added that the AFF is now working out the details such as the composition of the league, fixtures and a possible promotion and relegation system.

Malcolm Thorpe, vice-president of sports development and events at World Sports Group, which is working with the AFF on the ASL, said: "We are working hard and closely with (all the member associations). Things are moving forward fairly positively."

"Fifa is in the process of creating a regulatory framework for the league," he added.

Thorpe said the league will begin at the earliest possible time that makes sense for all stakeholders.

However, he noted that the start date set for August next year represented a "tight timeline".

The ASL is expected to feature at least one team from each of the AFF's 12 member nations.

However, it is unclear if they will be existing clubs, a national age-group side or franchise teams like Singapore's LionsXII.

There is also uncertainty over Indonesia's participation.

Its football association (PSSI) is currently suspended from international football competition by Fifa.

The country's sports and youth ministry had cancelled the domestic football season because of a row over which teams were eligible to compete in the Indonesian Super League.

PSSI secretary-general Joko Driyono reiterated Indonesia's support for the ASL but said: "We are expecting further discussions with the ASL committee.

"There are still many things to discuss, such as the competition regulation and technical and commercial aspects."

"Indonesia is also in a very difficult situation," he added.

"If the Fifa suspension is not lifted by the end of the year, it is almost impossible for Indonesia to play a part in the ASL in 2016."

Joko added that the PSSI had earlier been given two spots in the ASL.

However, it is unsure which club it should send, or if it should create a new team.

Meanwhile, the new competition has been well received by other regional football associations.

Football Federation of Cambodia vice-president, Major-General Khiev Sameth, said: "On our part, we want to participate.

"We are now looking for resources to put the team together."

The Philippines men's national football team manager Dan Palami said he had not heard about the ASL's start date.

However, he is supportive, saying: "It's an interesting tournament, a lot of our clubs are looking at it, and the Philippine Football Federation are keen.

"The more competitions there are, the better it is for our development. A lot of clubs are looking at it, we are sure they will be interested, and we are exploring if we should send a club or maybe the Under-23s."

It is believed that Singapore's representatives could be the LionsXII who now play in the Malaysian Super League.

S-League powerhouses Tampines Rovers are also keen to play in the ASL.

The FAS could not be reached for comment.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 26, 2015, with the headline Asean Super League to kick off in August 2016. Subscribe