ASEAN Super League faces more delays, but Zainudin insists it will take off

Conceptualised a decade ago, the start of the ASEAN Super League (ASL) has been delayed several times. The odds seem stacked against the regional league, but former Football Association of Singapore president Zainudin Nordin is confident it will take flight.

When plans were officially announced in 2013 for the ASL, a two-year commencement period was given. The start was then deferred to 2016, and now, even 2017 looks unlikely despite various reports in Singapore pointing to a September kick-off.

Responding to FourFourTwo’s comment piece on Monday, titled ‘ASEAN Super League, still more dream than reality’, Zainudin denied the ASL taskforce he leads is has hit a brick wall.

We understand there is a lot of information missing, but that is because we are not revealing things yet

Zainudin did appear uncertain, however, on exactly when the competition would start.

He brushed aside the October deadline previously given by the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF), saying the taskforce still had a mandate to complete.

“I am confident that the ASL will materialise. We (the taskforce) understand there is a lot of information missing, but that is because we are not revealing things yet,” said Zainudin.

“The aim was to start next year … but we need to make sure everything is in order first. The work to get things sorted will continue.

“The previous eight-month deadline was to see how fast we could get things in order if we were to aim for 2017. It’s been settled already and we got a mandate to continue planning at the last AFF Board meeting in Bangkok in October.”

When will it actually take-off?

FourFourTwo understands AFF officials are now split over the ASL and have reservations if the competition will indeed materialise.

A launch expected to take place this week was called off, but Zainudin stressed an approach to several event companies had only been part of early-stage planning.

The taskforce later felt it “was better to get teams on board first and then come up with a better launch at a later date”.

Question marks remain on a number of issues, including how the ASL will operate, where it will fit into the current domestic calendar and if it will feature all AFF member associations.

The ASL have yet to receive approval from the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), but that was of little concern to Zainudin.

“We have written approval to proceed with planning. Just like every other competition, the tournament per se will only be approved once the details like operational matters, teams and scheduling are finalised,” he said.

New teams targeted, but where will they come from?

The biggest question that has persisted over the ASL is the identity of the teams. Apart from Brunei DPMM, no other existing team has openly supported the proposed league.

Zainudin confirmed there was no prospect of a Champions League or AFC Cup route available via the ASL yet, something that could affect the ASL’s chances of attracting the best teams or players in the region.

How do we know that the best players will not come? What if a team has a rich owner who will do whatever it takes to be competitive?

“A lot of it are assumptions,” he said. “How do we know that the best players will not come? What if a team has a rich owner who will do whatever it takes to be competitive?

“The concept is to have owner-based clubs. We are creating a new product so the ASL will exist separately. Existing teams can also play in the competition but they need the financial muscle to participate.

“They will, however, need to register a separate team of players compared to the squad for domestic competitions.

“There were many things looked at throughout the years and we found these issues then. We also looked at scheduling, teams, the quality of players the competition could attract and such. I am positive this will come good,” said Zainudin.

Zainudin refused to reveal how many teams had committed in principle, if any, but he maintains that talks with people in Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Philippines are underway.