Exclusive: TMJ reveals Malaysian football is considering an additional ASEAN import slot

The Malaysia Super League (MSL) may soon open its doors to more Southeast Asian footballers with an additional import slot. Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) president Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim shared his thoughts with Vijhay Vick. 

Football Malaysia Limited Liability Partnership (FMLLP) could introduce a new foreign player ruling next season, one that would see more players from Southeast Asia ply their trade in the MSL or the second-tier Malaysia Premier League (MPL), Tunku Ismail told FourFourTwo.

Nothing is finalised now, but the option of having five foreigners is something we need to look from all aspects

- TMJ

The Thai Premier League (TPL) announced a similar move last year, allowing teams to sign a sixth import starting in 2018 if the player was from the ASEAN region.

In line with Asian Football Confederation (AFC) competition regulations, Malaysia allows teams to have four imports – including one Asian player – at present.

Tunku Ismail, who is also the FMLLP board chairman, said having an additional slot for ASEAN players would make commercial sense.

“We are thinking about it … nothing is finalised now, but the option of having five foreigners is something we need to look from all aspects,” said Tunku Ismail.

More SEA footballers like Safuwan Baharudin could join the MSL

“Commercially, the move will help because instantly Malaysian football gets more eyeballs from the region. Finances are something that needs to be addressed because there is very little now and this could be a way.”

Tunku Ismail was installed as FAM president in March and has said that the association is short of RM 40 million.

The inclusion of ASEAN players could widen the fanbase of the league in a similar way LionsXII’s participation in the MSL from 2012-2015 did

A supposed multi-million ringgit deal with media buying agency MP & Silva signed in 2015 has yet to reap significant returns and both parties are seeking a legal redress two years since joining hands.

The inclusion of ASEAN players could widen the fanbase of the league in a similar way LionsXII’s participation in the MSL from 2012-2015 did. 

A larger regional audience could in turn lead to a higher revenue stream.

The Singaporean development side played in the MSL as part of FAM’s memorandum of understanding with the Football Association of Singapore (FAS). 

There were positives from the LionsXII's participation in the MSL

There were plenty of objections to their inclusion on the Malaysian side of the Causeway, among them that the Singapore national team had more to gain by playing a core of their squad in a more competitive league.

But commercially the MSL had a lot of interest from Singapore, as matches were televised in the Republic. There was also then an avenue for LionsXII fans to spend money in Malaysia.

[NEXT UP: Less locals, more problems?]