KUALA LUMPUR – The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) is committed in ensuring the continuous success of players and teams on the world stage.
Since its inception in 1954, AFC has been going strong to promote professional football standards and reinvigorate Asian football benchmarks meeting FIFA standards.
In an interview with One Malaya, its general secretary Dato’ Windsor John said the basis to have a strong football league is pivotal to have a strong national team.
“We recognise that each of our Member Associations are unique and the AFC works closely with them to provide customised solutions in a full spectrum of development programmes and initiatives.
“This includes strengthening the professionalism of their domestic leagues. In the area of professional league development, we provide our assistance through two main pillars: the AFC Club Licensing Regulations and the AFC President’s Development Initiative,” Dato’ Windsor said.
AFC introduced club licensing in 2012 and has been a crucial tool in ensuring clubs are adopting the best practices in administration, financial management and infrastructure requirements.
“From having little or no expertise in the area, with virtually no club licensing managers, today we have formed a vast network of Managers from all across our Member Associations – capable and knowledgeable administrators who are now experts on all matters related to Club Licensing.
“Additionally, we have created an entire ecosystem of club licensing consultants, auditors and IT Systems over the last decade. And to further support this shift, we have also introduced: the AFC Club Licensing Quality Standards; the AFC Club Licensing Benchmarking Report and the AFC Club Licensing Administration System.”
When they started the process, only participating clubs in the AFC Champions League were required to meet the licensing criteria, but they have since expanded this to clubs participating in the AFC Cup, which was tailormade to focus more on development.
“Specific to the ASEAN region, all our Member Associations represented in the AFC Cup meet the licensing criteria, with the exception of Malaysia and Thailand whose clubs participate in the AFC Champions League, our premier club competition and are therefore required to meet the highest standards of licensing.
“We have also held several club licensing workshops in Cambodia, Laos, and Indonesia as well as Timor-Leste in the past three years to assist clubs in meeting the licensing criteria.” he added.
Introducing club licensing to MFL
More recently, the AFC has been working with the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM), the Malaysian Football League and its affiliates to implement a more robust system of administration and financial management with the aim towards ensuring that a vast majority of all its clubs meet the AFC Champions League licensing criteria in the next two years.
Similarly, they have also been working closely with the Philippines Football Federation and Philippines Football League with the launch of its first-ever domestic league in 2017 and have also extended their assistance in the development of a Club Licensing system for the upcoming seasons.
AFC President’s development initiative
At the same time, the President’s Development Initiative (PDI), which consolidates previous initiatives such as the League Development Programme, Expert Pool, Competition Fund, Live Streaming Platform and Competition Management System is introduced to create a lasting impact on our Member Associations and their leagues.
“In addition to assisting with the establishment of the Philippines Football League, we have worked towards increasing the engagement with fans and online streaming viewership by providing support in areas such as Commercial, Broadcast, Digital Marketing and Strategy as well as Sponsorship.
“In Thailand, the AFC organised a marketing workshop for clubs in the Thai League Division 1 and 2 and responded to FA Thailand’s request to restructure their Refereeing System.
“The AFC also deployed a world-renowned consultant to conduct nine courses over two years for match officials as part of efforts to enhance the level of professionalism in the Thai Leagues.” highlighted Dato’ Windsor.
Over the time, a new Referees Department was established as was a customised strategic plan for referees’ development and a similar Referee Administrative project was introduced for Indonesia’s first two divisions in 2017.
“We also assisted the Cambodian Football Federation with the development of an Annual Strategic Plan for the Metfone Cambodian League in 2017 and organised a fan base development workshop for Myanmar Division 1 clubs under the PDI programme.
“As part of efforts to increase the revenue streams for our MAs, we also introduced a live-streaming platform for the leagues in Laos and Timor-Leste as well as a Competition Management System, which was extended to Singapore where we also assisted with the re-branding of their professional league.”