The Malaysian Football League (MFL) announced the restructuring of Liga Malaysia beginning in 2023, in order to enhance the dynamism and competitiveness of Malaysia’s professional football league.
Following agreement by League Partners at the Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM), MFL introduced a new structure of the domestic football pyramid which is aimed to be more relevant to the changes and demands of modern football as well as the evolving commercial aspects of the industry.
MFL have also placed the development of local talents as a priority in the revamp plans that were proposed.
These reforms involve six main aspects:
- 18 clubs will participate in Liga Super, instead of the 12-club format which has been in place since 2013.
- Liga Premier will be put on hold for the moment before being relaunched as Semi-Pro League following the implementation of an in-depth club development programme with the Amateur Football League (AFL) for Liga M3 amateur teams.
- The Reserve League will be introduced as a platform to address the development gap in the local league structure. The Reserve League will also act as a bridge for players to get invaluable playing time and much-needed adaptation opportunities in preparation for the Liga Super. In line with that, the current Reserve Team concept will end and all Liga Super clubs are now required to have an Under-23 (U23) team, which would provide an improved competitive balance between all Liga Super teams.
- The import player quota will be in line with AFC’s recent changes. However, MFL will guarantee the slots for local players on the pitch will remain whilst still ensuring the quality and opportunities for each professional club in an elite national league are prioritised and that the same import quota is fairly applied to all Liga Super teams.
- The Piala FA and Piala Malaysia formats will be reviewed in line with the increase in the number of league matches as well as changes in the AFC calendar next season.
- MFL will also work closely with FAM to restructure the competition format to increase the number of matches for the Piala Belia (U19) and Piala Presiden (U21) teams.
MFL’s presentation is the result of research that began in early 2022, which has seen MFL consult with various stakeholders and football authorities such as FIFA, the AFC, as well as research on multiple international leagues in order to determine the most suitable formula to be applied in Malaysia. MFL have also held various discussions with global agencies that work with leagues across the world.
- Liga Super
Liga Super 2023 will have 18 teams competing for 16 slots in Liga Super 2024, while the 16-team Liga Super format will remain for the following seasons.
This season (2022), the bottom two teams in Liga Premier will face the top two Liga M3 teams for the 17th and 18th spots in Liga Super 2023. However, if they (M3 clubs) prevail, the Liga M3 representatives must still fulfill MFL’s club licensing criteria before being allowed to compete in Liga Super.
- The Reserve League and the end of the Reserve Team concept
Liga Super 2023 will be supported by the Reserve League, which will provide the stage for U23 player development through guaranteed playing time and increased competitive matches. This is based on MFL’s research which indicated that young Malaysian players were not receiving adequate playing time with their first teams.
Generally, the age and experience gap between Piala Presiden and Piala Belia to Liga Super is too wide, and former Technical Director of FAM, Datuk Ong Kim Swee previously proposed on 25 January 2022 that a Reserve League be introduced in order to ensure the development of young players that are falling through this gap.
With the objective of raising the quality of the Reserve League, prioritising development and ensuring that U23 players are ready to compete in Liga Super at any time, each Liga Super team will be allowed to list five (5) overaged players in the Reserve League, but only three (3) overaged players, including imports (a maximum of two), will be allowed to be on the pitch. This will guarantee more playing time for at least eight (8) local U23 players at any time.
The overaged player slots and involvement of import players will provide enhanced quality, intensity, and standard for the Reserve League, in addition to providing a suitable environment for U23 players to acclimatise before advancing to the next level – the Liga Super.
This also provides Liga Super teams the opportunity to utilise the Reserve League as a platform for senior player rehabilitation or to ensure that fringe first-team players are given the opportunity to maintain their performance levels.
The Reserve League should not only be viewed from the development standpoint, but also as a positive advancement for local players, seeing as it will serve as a route to the Liga Super. –www.malaysianfootballleague.com