Saturday, March 4, 2006

Ensuring a truly pro league (03/03/2006 - The Malay Mail)

Publication : MM
Date : 03/03/2006
Headline : Ensuring a truly pro league

THE M-League format is going to see yet another change. A brainstorming
session to discuss this will be held in Kuching on Monday.
The session, which will be attended by State FAs, club representatives
and media sports editors and senior soccer writers, will chart the future
of Malaysian soccer.
It is hoped that this time around, whatever decision are taken, will
finally see the M-League stand on firm ground and become a permanent
feature of Malaysian soccer.
For far too long, the format of the M-League has kept changing. It does
not have an identity or character.
Worst of all, the formats have not helped in the development of
Malaysian soccer or the league.
The current format was introduced just two years ago with a top-flight
Super League comprising eight teams and the second-tier Premier League
with 16 sides playing in two groups of eight each.
Each team plays three matches iinstead of the home-and-away two-match
No doubt the Malaysia Cup, formerly known as the Malaya Cup which dates
back to 1921, has the richness, colour and drama of a great competition,
going through changes over the years. It still stands out in Malaysian
Malaysian soccer's real attempt to go professional began in 1989 when
the Semi-Pro League was launched.
The inaugural Pro-League was introduced in 1994 with a one-tier format.
But somehow, the dreams of seeing a successful Pro League established
while helping to raise the standard of soccer in the country, which was
definitely higher when the game was played on an amateur level, have
fallen short despite numerous attempts by the FA of Malaysia (FAM).
Thus, it is very important the FAM competitions committee - headed by
Datuk Raja Ahmad Zainuddin (top) - conducting the brainstorming in
Kuching, have an open mind to suggestions, criticisms and adopt the
format which has the best interests of Malaysian soccer at heart, and not
because it will please some quarters.
Although a change in format has been scheduled for 2008, there is every
indication a change will be implemented next season.
This is because Malaysia will be hosting the Asian Cup, which will take
up 13 weeks of the M-League by the national team's preparations and the
competition itself.
FAM made a very good move in having the M-League played over two years,
instead of one for the latest season, which began last year and
continuing this year.
Indications are this trend will be repeated in the coming season, but
with modifications.
One of these changes is to run the league based on the international
governing body FIFA's calendar, which is for a four-year period, ensuring
the national team will be better prepared for international assignments.
This would mean the decision-makers on Monday, will have to be very
open-minded on a very touchy issue where the league will probably have to
be played during the fasting month.
All these years, the league has always taken a break during the fasting
month and this is one of the reasons why the national team's preparations
have been hampered because of a cramped season.
With the introduction of the two-year season, playing through the
fasting month and working in collaboration with FIFA, the M-League will
be better managed and organised.
And the three matches each team play one another, is certainly a no-no.
It would be wiser to increase the number of teams in the Super League
to probably 12, and have only 12 teams in the Premier League playing on a
home-and-away basis.
Hopefully, the postponement of matches will be a thing of the past too.
Last season, a total of 324 matches were postponed and this year, the
figure is expected to increase even further.
This is because effective tomorrow, Premier League matches on Sundays
will be played on Saturdays together with the Super League or on Fridays
with FAM Cup matches, leaving Sunday as a rest day.
While the media were informed of postponed matches in the past, matches
have been put off more often this season without reporters being notified.
Positive things should come out of the meeting on Monday, provided all
the representatives think rationally with the interest of seeing a truly
professional league by all counts, and not just by name.

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