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Football: FAS poised for role in ASEAN Super League

Singapore looks set to be the nerve centre of the multi-million-dollar ASEAN Super League (ASL) that is promising guaranteed returns of around US$5 million (S$6.3 million) for each of its franchise teams.

SINGAPORE: The Republic looks set to be the nerve centre of the multi-million-dollar ASEAN Super League (ASL) that is promising guaranteed returns of around US$5 million (S$6.3 million) for each of its franchise teams.

Slated to kick off in 2016, instead of next year as initially reported, the proposed annual league will feature club teams from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). It is aiming to start with 12 teams, each putting up a franchise fee of US$500,000.

Mr Azzuddin Ahmad, secretary-general of the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) that oversees the ASL as well as the popular biennial Suzuki Cup, told TODAY that the new league is down to its final preparatory work.

For now, the AFF needs to sort out key administrative matters to allow the ASL to kick off, primarily the fact that the AFF, which exists within the Asian Football Confederation, is not a recognised body under football world governing body FIFA.

That, said Mr Azzuddin, means the AFF cannot organise a tournament.

"Only a member association can, and the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) has agreed to take up the responsibility and will write to the world body to seek approval for the ASL," he said.

"I don't see why FIFA would not agree to sanction the ASL because it is intended for development purpose.

"But, before the FAS does so, it also has to form a company, appoint a chief executive officer and get other support staff to manage the day-to-day affairs of the company."

Replying to a query from TODAY, the FAS confirmed that a detailed proposal of the ASL had been sent to FIFA and that it is awaiting "input from FIFA".

The league, if it gets off the ground, is touted to be a money-spinner, with figures of US$50 million estimated as its worth in television revenue, and other opportunities for sponsorship deals and marketing rights.

The popularity of the Suzuki Cup, a competition for national sides, along with the fact that football is popular in ASEAN, makes a compelling case for the league, with television stations also hungry for sports content.

Mr Azzuddin said certain key issues had been decided, namely a franchise system, an eight-month duration for the league and 12 start-up teams. Money, he said, would not be an issue.

"We are talking big money for the ASL. We will find the money to run and manage the league," he said, though he declined to reveal figures.

TODAY understands that, in a presentation to the executive council of the AFF last year, the federation's marketing partner World Sport Group outlined its concept of the ASL, which puts the franchise fee for each team at US$500,000, with teams getting a share of television and sponsorship deals over a period of time.

The ASL will feature at least one club from each ASEAN country, though Mr Azzuddin said Thailand is reluctant to send its best teams to the AFF, despite Buriram United FC playing in the continent's top-tier AFC Champions League this year and Muangthong United and Chonburi FC making it to the second qualifying round.

Added Mr Azzuddin: "The uniqueness of the ASEAN market, with its vast population in football-mad countries such as Indonesia and Vietnam, is perfect for the ASL. Television stations there are hungry for content and live football matches are the perfect answer. Even in Malaysia, the (cable TV provider) ASTRO is also on the lookout for such live events."

Meanwhile, former AFC strongman Peter Velappan has questioned the need for the ASL.

"Already, the calendar, be it domestic or international, is so tight. Clubs are playing 40 to 50 matches a season now. Do we need more and can the football paying fans take it?" asked Mr Velappan, AFC general secretary from 1978 to 2007.

"What we need (for ASEAN) is development at grassroots levels, not more club competitions. Doesn't the AFC provide enough club competitions?"

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