Is the ASEAN Super League good for SE Asian football?
By Eric Noveanto
The biggest dream of many South-East Asian football fans is set to be launched in 2015, the long talked about ASEAN Super League (ASL).
What would the ASEAN Super League mean for domestic leagues?
As with most new things, this newly formed league has presented both pro and cons.
Firstly, let’s look at the positives. It is a good way to develop South-East Asia football. Players will get more playing experiences to improve their standards, as well to decrease the gap between each other within the region, particularly to the other regions across Asia.
For fans, they have something to which can be supported at regional level apart from another tournament such as AFF Suzuki Cup and SEA Games.
Having clubs from their respective countries competing to win the ASL, or at least doing well, in wider perspective would provide far more satisfaction than excelling in each domestic leagues.
Aside from the excitement, minor details have also been released regarding the concept. The ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) has announced that ASL will adopt a nine-month season with franchises for each ASEAN nation.
It means several new teams will be established for the league and there will be no clash between AFC and domestic fixtures. But, bear in mind new clubs might have a hard time getting off the ground.
Culturally in Indonesian football, the current well-established clubs’ popularity is ingrained among the fans. Based on the previous experiences, when the new teams were formed in those cities during Liga Primer in 2011, establishing a new team will be hard to gain massive support from the fans – no matter how good the players are. Indeed, nothing is impossible but it is hard to see fans flocking to the stadium.
Besides Indonesia, Vietnam are also experiencing the severe financial problems within V-League, with some clubs being forced to fold, and it is an issue that shows no sign of fading, resulting in a reduction of crowd numbers in recent periods.
In Thailand, Malaysia and Myanmar, where the domestic leagues are developing and maturing every day, it will be a hard-task for the new ASL established-club management to attract some attention from either fans or football stakeholders.
In Singapore, the local league itself has been plagued by falling attendances in recent years. With the presence of ASL, it will provide too many football choices, and is likely to further dilute the fan base – not a good idea for a country with a small population.
Moreover for some “developing ” nations like Laos, Philippines and Cambodia, which are just starting to establish new leagues, the presence of the ASEAN Super League probably could hinder the potential development of each domestic leagues.
Despite all their enthusiasm, there will be plenty work to do for the ASEAN Super League organisers to carve out a segment of the football market among the football mad inhabitants across South-East Asia.
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