Football in Asia is, despite all the hype, a long way behind Europe, South America and even Africa.
The fact that even its biggest event The Asian Cup did not have every game televised in every Asian country shows that to some the sport has little importance, and the English Premier League more appeal.
If we look at the last FIFA World Cup none of Asia’s representatives made it out of their pools. In fact along with Australia, Japan, South Korea and Iran, all of Asia’s representatives, finished bottom of their pools.
So how can Asia improve its standings in World football? How important will Australia’s performance be at the the Confederations Cup in 2017 in order to maintain four qualifying spots for Asia at the 2022 World Cup? Rest assured the new FIFA will review this.
Currently in a Confederation that has 43 members few of the national League competitions are making money. The J-League and K-League are two that are, but are being dominated by the same small group of teams. The Chinese Super League is cashed up, but the standard while improving is still not great, and again is dominated by a few teams. Once again the Arab nations do have money but internationally in recent times they have failed to perform to expectations.
It is therefore interesting to read that consideration is being given to cross-border leagues. Hong Kong’s Football Association is currently in discussions with the Chinese Super League in relation to being able to have teams from their league play in some of China’s competitions, and as a result cash in on the surge in investment in the game.
Then at the same time a story broke that the Football Association of Malaysia had been talking to the Football Federation of Australia about having a Malaysian team play in the A-League. The Reuters article that broke the story also said that teams from Indonesia or Thailand were also being considered.
In truth it makes a great deal of sense to have the national league competitions expand their reach as many are struggling financially as well as in television appeal. The fact that Australian teams would possibly, depending on how the competition was structured, play or have links with Asian nations would immediately increase television audience appeal and also sponsorship opportunities.
It would see different styles of football played by the various teams and one would hope would also help raise the standard of all the nations playing in the competitions, to make the region as a whole more competitive on the World stage.
There will be many in Asia who will claim that their leagues do not need to merge with one from another country as they already have strong support at games, and television coverage, but many of those nations have struggled on the international stage, even within Asia. So if they have eyes on the bigger picture such a move does have merit.
The world is shrinking in terms of travel and with a number of low-cost airlines operating throughout Asia and flying times in many cases similar to traversing Australia no longer is travel an excuse for not exploring such a possibility.
Other sports are forming cross-country links to assist in the development of their games, so why not football?