Ten of Asia's top soccer leagues are set to be revamped as part of the Asian Football Confederation's (AFC) drive to make them more commercially viable and attractive to fans.
The proposal is the brainchild of AFC chief Mohammed bin Hammam and is under the guidance of Japan Football Association president Saburo Kawabuchi.
An initial study has been focusing on 22 countries and their current league and club infrastructures, with at least 10 to be relaunched between 2009-2012, some seeing more drastic changes than others.
"This project is very big and will take a lot of hard work and dedication. But I am putting this as top priority for the Japan Football Association to assist in making it a success," Kawabuchi said.
"We are seriously cooperating with the AFC to improve this special project which has been designed to raise the level of football in Asian clubs," he said.
The 10 leagues are Australia, Japan, China, South Korea, Singapore, India, Iran, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
The key focus is to make them more commercially viable through increased transparency in the way they do business, as well as more competitive to attract more fans.
Precise details are still being thrashed out.
The AFC is also considering a new format for the Champions League, Asia's premier club competition, from 2009.
"The overall motivation behind the program is the need and ambition to ensure that Asian football is managed professionally, within a commercial infrastructure, and is providing entertainment for the fans," Bin Hammam said.
"Today, football can be, and must be, managed as a business commodity while still protecting the integrity of the sport. So within the AFC region there are many opportunities to re-develop the national leagues, and also our AFC continental club competitions, to ensure we are competitive and progressive," he said.
The decision to revamp the leagues was sparked in part by the failure of Asian nations to do better at the World Cup in Germany, where only AFC newcomer Australia made it past the group stages.
At the time, Bin Hammam told reporters poor competition structures in Asia were directly to blame for the lackluster performances of South Korea, Japan, Saudi Arabia and Iran.
The Qatari, who is set to be re-elected to the AFC presidency in May, has long called for clubs and leagues to be managed more professionally, and said the success of the English Premier League was a shining example.
"There are different things to be learned from many leagues around the world," he said.
"We look mainly at some of the European leagues, and particularly the commercial success of the FA Premier League," Bin Hammam said.
"At a continental level, of course the UEFA Champions League. And within Asia, we have looked at our best practices. The J-League demonstrates many positive elements that other leagues around Asia can learn a lot from," he added.
Support for the changes has been widespread with investors keen to make more money and players wanting a better professional environment to hone their skills.
"We are creating a football industry where we can invite business people to invest in Asian clubs," Bin Hammam said.
"We believe that the future is in Asia, and there are big clubs comparable to those in Europe, and we need to ensure that they have the right structure in place to benefit from investment from within or outside Asia," he said.
Red Bull team chief Christian Horner has welcomed Ferrari’s U-turn to support a Formula One engine freeze from 2022. The move gives Red Bull a chance to continue using Honda power after the Japanese supplier exits next year. Speaking ahead of yesterday’s final practice for today’s Bahrain Grand Prix, Horner said that Ferrari’s decision was encouraging for F1 and everyone involved in the business end of the sport. “It’s positive news,” he said. “I think all the manufacturers, all the CEOs of the automotive industry, they all recognize the investment and cost of these engines, particularly with the new technology coming for 2026,
An influx of soccer players to India from Australia has highlighted changing fortunes as the Indian Super League (ISL) flourishes and the A-League hits lean times during the COVID-19 pandemic. Just two Australians played in the Indian Super League last year, but 10 were among the 11 teams when the competition got under way in a bio-secure “bubble” in Goa last week. Non-Australian A-League players have also made the move, including English striker Adam Le Fondre — last season’s second-highest goal-scorer with Sydney FC — along with German defender Matti Steinman and Aaron Holloway of Wales. Much of the change is down to
‘YOU’RE CHAMPIONS’: Pope Francis told the NBA delegation that they had become models of teamwork, while remaining humble and preserving their own humanity Pope Francis on Monday met with NBA players at the Vatican, lauding them as “champions” and saying he supported their work on social justice. The five players — Marco Belinelli, Sterling Brown, Jonathan Isaac, Kyle Korver and Anthony Tolliver — were joined in the delegation by National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts and two other union executives, Sherrie Deans and Matteo Zuretti. “We’re here because, frankly, we’re inspired by the work that you do globally,” Roberts told the pope during the meeting in the Vatican Apostolic Library. The union said that the players spoke about their “individual and collective efforts addressing
Zlatan Ibrahimovic on Sunday scored twice to bring his tally to 10 league goals this season before limping off with a muscle strain as AC Milan stayed top of Serie A with a 3-1 win at 10-man SSC Napoli. Milan move back two points ahead of US Sassuolo — 2-0 winners earlier at Hellas Verona — with AS Roma third after Henrikh Mkhitaryan netted a brace in a dominant 3-0 win over Parma. “For me Zlatan is stronger now than 10, 12 years ago,” Napoli coach Gennaro Gattuso said of his former Milan teammate. “Milan strongly believes in Ibra, his teammates trust