Odds of LionsXII MSL departure shortening by the day

Talks for LionsXII to stay in the Malaysia Super League (MSL) are heading nowhere as the prospect of the Singaporean side sitting out next year’s competition appears to be growing…

Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) officials were scheduled to meet their Singaporean counterparts on Monday this week to continue discussions over a new memorandum of understanding (MoU) to replace the last one signed in July 2011.

The meeting did not take place, however, as it is believed Football Association of Singapore (FAS) representatives requested it be deferred.

The FAM and Football Malaysia LLP (FMLLP) are understood to be thinking of contingency plans in case LionsXII don’t participate, a situation which may benefit Malaysian clubs ATM or T-Team.

ATM were relegated after finishing 11th in last season’s MSL, alongside 12th-placed Sime Darby, while T-Team ended the 2015 just outside the promotion places from the Malaysia Premier League.

Sources claim the odds of LionsXII competing in next season’s MSL are no better than “50-50”.

The league will be 12 teams, but time is running out

A meeting could take place between the leading officials of both FAM and FAS during the ASEAN Football Federation council meeting in Kuantan on Saturday, but nothing has yet been confirmed.

A source close to previous discussions between the parties told FourFourTwo that FAM and FMLLP were already thinking of alternatives to remain a 12-team league if LionsXII no longer compete.

“Either the MSL’s 11th-placed team (ATM) or second tier’s third-placed T-Team stand to benefit if there are no LionsXII,” the source said.

“The league will be 12 teams, but time is running out. Things must move as soon as possible to allow better preparations for competing clubs. The teams need to know where they will play next season so they could budget themselves.

“Even their possible transfer signings will be delayed as players may wait to see if they have more suitors. ATM and T-Team, for example, the quality of players they could attract would be different if they were playing in the top flight.”

Last month, reports emerged FAM weren’t keen on continuing to send Harimau Muda to the S.League. Growing calls for development to be emphasised at local clubs could see that project being scrapped.

Speculation is also rife that FAS are keeping their fingers crossed the proposed ASEAN Super League takes off, as LionsXII could be Singapore’s representative, leaving the Young Lions to play in the MSL.

Requests have been made to allow Singapore’s MSL team to include up to four foreign players in its roster as per the regulations for Malaysian clubs.

Officials at FAM are tight-lipped on the matter and refused to reveal details of any potential new MoU.

Under the 2011 agreement, referee exchanges, international friendly matches and a FAM-FAS Challenge Series were supposed to take place.

There have been no international friendlies between the countries since 2011.

The FAM-FAM Challenge Series, meanwhile, was scheduled in 2012 – Super League winners Kelantan against S.League champions Tampines Rovers and Malaysia Cup runners-up Armed Forces against Singapore Cup winners Warriors FC – but it was ultimately called off and was never rescheduled.

Photo: Weixiang Lim/FourFourTwo