Sunday, October 04, 2015


Last Rites For Still Born ASEAN Super League

I must admit I am not a great fan of the proposed ASEAN Super League. When you have strong leagues in Indonesia (usually), Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam why would they want to weaken their own domestic scene for a vanity project. It does seem the drivers are Singapore and they need to be careful what they wish for.

Arsenal once put all their eggs in one basket when they naively though the Financial Fair Play would level the playing field and allow all clubs to compete equally. Despite being managed by a guy with an economics degree their thinking, which was at the heart of their business plan for so many years, did not take into account the concept of loopholes and highly paid legal teams.

Likewise Singapore who, along with their myriad strategic plans, hubs and leveraging, are now hoping an ASL will be the answer to all their prayers and set them on the road to a place at Asia's top table to the detriment of their own league. With an ASL why even bother with the SLeague?

Let's assume for a moment that Indonesia is let back in to FIFA and their clubs can suddenly find the money to do things like pay salaries and find the wherewithall to keep to a printed  fixture list; which club would want to start traveling around the region playing teams in places like Laos and Myanmar, foregoing the old enemies on their own turf? No disrespect to Laos Toyota but will Persib fans turn out in force to see them on a wet Tuesday in Soreang?

The clubs proposed so far to enter the ASL so how seriously the local associations are taking the idea. Malaysia want to enter something called Frenz United Under 18. Apparently Frenz United are at 'the heart of a football revolution currently taking place in Malaysia and around the region. As the country’s first Professional Football Club with Academy for professional footballers; FUFC is conceiving, promoting and implementing game-changing excellence in football that is enabling an entire generation of highly-skilled, disciplined and competent individuals.'

The Philippines are more focussed on building their own national league; they are considering entering their national Under 23 side. The Thais with a league boasting the likes of Muang Thong United and Buriram United are looking at entering Port FC, nee Tha Reua, nee Thai Port, nee PAT.

Against that type of opposition you can see why Singapore is so excited. They want LionsXII to compete! Consider a league with the following:

Frenz United U18
Philippines U23
Port FC

Now as big a fan of ASEAN football as I am, I am hardly salivating at the prospect of watching any of those teams. When you look at the Indian Super League, which is kicking off its second season as I type this, you see how two bob the whole thing looks. Can you imagine the sponsors queueing up to get involved in the way they do in India cos I bloody well can't. Already there is talk Cambodia, Laos and Timor Leste are struggling to find sponsors for a team.

If you want to have a professional ASL then go the whole hog with franchises and serious investors with serious cash to burn. Don't fanny around with a Poundland version where no one is really interested outside of one country.

And Singapore needs to understand the ASL is not an exercise to brush the whole SLeague under the table. They have managed to run that league into the ground and for all their business school speak they have shown an absolute poverty of imagination how they can revive it. And FIFA, already a tad upset with the way the FAS is running itself, may not  take kindly to a member association without a professional league.

An ASL is not the panacea to the ills that plague football in Singapore, it is not a one tablet cures all solution. It is time for the FAS to stop believing in fairy tales and do something concrete about the game in their own backyard and not expect teenagers in Malaysia to be the solution

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