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EXCLUSIVE: AFF considering O’Brien proposal for relaunch of club championship

HANOI, VIETNAM - DECEMBER 15: Nguyen Quang Hai of Vietnam shoots during the AFF Suzuki Cup final second leg match between Vietnam and Malaysia at Muy Dinh National Stadium on December 15, 2018 in Hanoi, Vietnam. (Photo by Stanley Chou/Getty Images)

The Asean Football Federation is considering a proposal by sports business entrepreneur Seamus O’Brien to relaunch a Southeast Asian club championship.

The AFF is understood to be discussing a potential format for the competition, with a view to launching next year. O’Brien has long experience in marketing Asian club football, having led the World Sport Group agency between 1992 and 2015 when it sold the commercial rights for Asian Football Confederation club and national team events.

The AFF’s membership includes 11 Southeast Asian football federations, plus Australia. The federation ran an Asean Club Championship in 2003 and 2005, but halted the competition after it faced opposition from the Asian Football Confederation for congesting the fixture calendar. Football industry insiders say any new competition would face a similar challenge. The AFC runs two continental club competitions, the Champions League and the AFC Cup.

One of the proposals thought to be under consideration by the AFF to alleviate calendar confusion is to limit entry to any new tournament to teams not competing in the AFC Champions League.

Industry insiders say there could be considerable interest from brands in sponsoring an Asean club competition. The previous edition attracted Korean electronics brand LG as a title sponsor. The AFF’s biennial national team tournament is title-sponsored by Japanese automotive brand Suzuki.

The Suzuki Cup is the AFF’s biggest property at present. Alongside this, it runs national team men’s and women’s youth tournaments, a national team futsal tournament, a club futsal tournament, a national team beach soccer tournament, and a women’s national team tournament.