LionsXII lined up to play in ASEAN Super League in 2017

LionsXII lined up to play in ASEAN Super League in 2017
The LionsXII players have been assured they will secure a playing contract at the same salary for the 2016 season. TODAY file photo
Published: 9:30 PM, November 26, 2015
Updated: 1:10 AM, November 27, 2015
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SINGAPORE — Following the LionsXII’s unceremonious exit from Malaysian football, the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) has swiftly rolled out its Plan B for the franchise team.

TODAY understands the FAS intends to keep the current LionsXII squad together to compete in the new ASEAN Super League (ASL) in 2017. But until then, the LionsXII will spend next season competing in Singapore’s own professional league, the S.League.

This development came after the Football Association of Malaysia’s (FAM) shock decision on Tuesday evening to not extend a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with their Singaporean counterparts that was inked in 2011.

The decision — which the FAS learnt about several hours later through the media — was reached after a unanimous vote by members of the FAM executive committee. It ended the LionsXII’s four-year stint in the Malaysian league and Cup competitions once the current campaign concludes on Dec 12.

The FAS said in a statement tonight that it had met the LionsXII players and backroom staff this evening, and assured them that they would secure a playing contract at the same salary for the 2016 season. The players were informed that the FAS is exploring the various possibilities relating to playing in next season’s S.League.

“We will now look ahead to next season in returning to a very competitive S.League with this assurance given to us by FAS,” said LionsXII winger Gabriel Quak.

Midfielder Zulfahmi Arifin added: “The certainty that every player in LionsXII is assured of a playing contract for next year means a lot to us, and the guarantee that we will receive the same salary is definitely a big bonus.”

Before the FAM decision, TODAY understands that the FAS had originally planned for the LionsXII to spend another season in the MSL, before joining the ASL in 2017. The Courts Young Lions — Singapore’s Under-23 developmental squad playing in the S.League — will then take the LionsXII’s place in the MSL.

But these plans were scuppered by the FAM, which cited issues over cost sharing, television revenue and football development as reasons why it decided not to renew the MoU.

The top item on FAS’s agenda now is to get the buy-in from the players on the ASL plan. According to people close to the negotiations, the proposed regional league is believed to have been approved by the Asian Football Confederation, and is awaiting final approval from the world football governing body, FIFA.

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