Asian Football - New ASEAN League to start in 2015 with eight teams

The inaugural ASEAN Super League will kick off in 2015 with eight franchise clubs competing in a relegation-free division with a play-off system to determine the winner.

Asian Football - AFF hopes local money can fuel ambitious league

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Malaysia's Norshahrul Idlan Talaha celebrates after scoring their first goal against Thailand during their AFF Suzuki Cup semi-final match in Kuala Lumpur

The ASEAN Football Federation anticipate 16 teams will eventually compete annually in the league with a limit on the number of franchises awarded to the key markets of Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore so that the likes of Myanmar and Laos can also take part.

The season will be played over eight months from February to September, will follow FIFA's international calendar and will not compromise the AFC's Champions League or AFC Cup.

The Asian Football Confederation have been kept abreast of the new league for the 11-strong bloc of Southeast Asian nations, while a memorandum of understanding has been agreed with all member associations, the AFF said.

The AFF stressed that the new league would not lead to the death of domestic divisions in Southeast Asia but would instead help capitalise on the sport's huge popularity and provide financial sustainability for struggling nations in the long run.

"The Member Associations of the AFF were briefed on the potential benefits including the financial forecasts for the participating clubs," AFF council member and AFC vice-president Prince Abdullah Ibni Sultan Ahmad Shah told Reuters.

"The concerns raised by the Member Associations, such as the impact to domestic leagues and the sustainability of the ASL were answered during the briefing (on April 3)."

Despite the huge popularity of football in the region and the success of the AFF's Suzuki Cup - the biennial tournament for national teams in ASEAN - Southeast Asia has made little impact in the rest of the confederation, let alone globally.

Vietnam are the best side in the region at 132, according to the latest FIFA rankings released on Thursday, with Indonesia the only one to appear at a World Cup finals after qualifying for the 1938 edition as the Dutch East Indies.

Indonesian football has been in free fall in recent times with a war for power between rival factions leaving the national team in disarray, clubs in perilous financial states and Paraguayan striker Diego Mendieta dead when he succumbed to a treatable disease after going unpaid for months.

In Singapore, the S.League has struggled to attract crowds - critics say the 12-strong league is too large for a city-state of around 5 million people - while Vietnam's 2013 domestic league has been postponed for months because of financial issues.

The Thai League has enjoyed a boom in recent years with big investment after a marketing blitz that attracted dozens of corporate sponsors, but Malaysia has struggled with matchfixing problems.

International fixtures, the lifeblood of most Football Associations, are also sporadic.

Wary of the domestic problems, the AFF said the new Super League would employ a strict licensing system that would improve integrity, raise playing standards, enhance supporter experience and attract new investors that will help 'enable the region to realise its true potential'.

Talks are expected to continue after the AFC elect a new president on May 2 at their congress in Kuala Lumpur.

"The AFF has agreed to further develop the proposed concept of the ASEAN Super League together with (marketing agency) World Sports Group to be presented to the AFC in the near future," Prince Abdullah said.

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