The Football Federation of Cambodia are looking to make major reforms to its top tier competition, the Metfone C-League, starting from next season after preliminary discussions were held with representatives of all clubs involved during a meeting at the Federation offices in Olympic Stadium on Wednesday morning.
According to FFC spokesman May Tola, the teams have agreed in principle to move towards a home-and-away fixture system for league games as well as scrapping the much-maligned Super 4 play-off format to decide the winners.
The 2014 MCL campaign will now be played as a straight league competition, with the table toppers crowned champions at the end. However, two new post-season tournaments – provisionally titled the FFC Cup and FFC Challenge Cup – would be held for top four finishers and the rest of the sides in the standings respectively to accommodate the desire to play more club matches per calendar year.
A home-and-away format would require each side to have their own ground to host ties, although currently only the Ministry of National Defence team boast ownership of a venue, the Old Stadium (also known as the Army ground) which has been used for MCL games in the past.
May Tola noted that reigning champions Svay Rieng FC and 2012 titlists Boeung Ket Rubber Field of Kampong Cham would potentially be in a position to host matches at their provincial facilities next year, while four-time winners Phnom Penh Crown FC have announced they are starting to clear land at their RSN Stadium in Toul Kork ahead of construction of a seated stadium and pitch.
Grounds must satisfy the minimum requirements laid out by the FFC, including adequate draining and grass quality, security and spectator stands.
Another concern of the Federation is to avoid playing in the extreme weather conditions of Cambodia’s monsoon season, which takes up nearly five months of the year and often forces play to be stopped with pitches completely waterlogged.
An idea proposed at Wednesday’s meeting was to schedule league matches from October to June with a mid-season break to allow for fixtures of the annual Samdech Hun Sen Cup competition.
May Tola told the Post yesterday it remained “up to our leadership” to confirm whether these proposed reforms would be implemented for next year’s league season.
“The Federation needs more budget and needs to send more officials to the provinces. That is our main challenge now,” added the FFC spokesman.
The introduction of a completely new team to the 2014 MCL was also brought to the attention of clubs on Wednesday, with Japanese Division 1 club Albirex Niigata looking to create a franchise in Cambodia following the success of their satellite side in Singapore’s S.League.
Like with their Singaporean team, which was established in 2004 and took runners-up behind champions Tampines Rovers in last year’s campaign, Niigata would send a squad of Japanese players to Cambodia to train and compete in local competitions.
Although still awaiting approval from the executive committee, the FFC seem keen to accommodate the addition of this foreign contingent, which would see the number of clubs playing in the top tier increase to the unorthodox number of 11. However, May Tola said they would be willing to allow an expansion to 12 teams.
The Kingdom’s second tier, Division A1, plays its title decider this morning at 7am at the Cher Teal Sports Institute in Takeo province, when Japanese-owned club Tri-Asia Phnom Penh FC take on Takeo.
Both sides will progress to two-leg promotional play-offs against the bottom two MCL teams of this year, Senate Secretariat and Asia Europe University, on September 20 and 23. Winners or these play-offs have been promised places in the 2014 MCL.
Meanwhile in Indonesia, Cambodia lost their opening match of the 2013 AFF U19 Championship group stage 3-1 against Laos on Wednesday night.
Lembo Saysana netted once either side of the interval and Bounthavy Sipasong added another in the second half for Laos before Cambodia’s Va Bottroi grabbed a late consolation at the Delta Stadium in Sidoarjo, East Java.
Singapore beat the Philippines 3-1 in Wednesday’s earlier Group A kick-off. Cambodia face East Timor at 3:30pm Cambodian time this afternoon at the same ground and then play the Philippines at 7:30pm on Sunday at Petrokimia Stadium in Gresik.
Group B games are also being held at the two venues over the weekend and include tussles between Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar and Brunei. The top two teams from each group will progress to semi-finals set for September 20, with the grand final on September 22.