Professional soccer is coming to Taiwan, with the Asia Football Confederation (AFC) backing the plan through its “Kick Off” program, Chinese Taipei Football Association (CTFA) secretary-general Wang Sheau-shiun (王筱薰) announced yesterday.
Kick Off provides assistance on management and marketing of national leagues to AFC member associations
“We are looking at two years for planning, followed by three years of preparation. Taiwan’s professional soccer league will then start in 2018,” he said.
“Right now, the biggest challenges we face are facilities and financial support,” Wang said. “It is a basic requirement for pro soccer clubs to have their own home ground, under their own management.”
He said negotiations are underway with the Sports Administration to build stadiums in northern Taiwan for the 2017 World University Games, to be held in Taipei, which can put to use as home grounds for soccer clubs when the games end.
“Financial support and sponsorship will not be a big problem,” Wang said. “If the big business conglomerates in Taiwan are not interested, I’m sure we can find investors from the international financial market.”
“In terms of standard of living, economy and geographic distribution of population, we see that Taiwan has all the conditions necessary to develop a top-class pro soccer league,” he said.
The AFC’s Kick Off program has already approved implementation in 11 member associations: Bangladesh, Iran, Jordan, Malaysia, Myanmar, Oman, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.
The CTFA will become the first association in East Asia to implement the AFC program, Wang said.
The AFC announced that its Vision Asia Committee had approved the CTFA’s application to join the confederation’s Kick Off development program on March 12 in Kuala Lumpur.
In his address at the meeting, AFC acting president Zhang Jilong said the Kick Off program is the start of a long journey, and asked member associations to concentrate on developments that will help the AFC to achieve world-class standards.
Wang said developments began when he attended an AFC meeting earlier this year and discussed the idea of setting up a professional league in Taiwan with the head of the AFC’s development section, Kaita Sugihara. With Sugihara’s help and the endorsement of other AFC officials, the CTFA was able to gain inclusion in the Kick Off program.