[Commentary] Should the UFL adopt the AFC Competitions’ Foreigner Cap Rule?

In 2008, then AFC President Mohammed Bin Hammam introduced the ‘3+1′ rule in AFC Club competitions.  The rule states that only four foreign players are allowed in a single club in AFC Club Competitions and one of which should be an Asian player.  Since the Philippines have now been given slots to the AFC Cup, Philippine clubs are now required to comply to this regulation in the Cup. Since the UFL is using a higher cap, the transition to the AFC Club competition rules is quite challenging.  Here is an in depth look on the leagues current status, our neighbors’ foreign caps, and the changes needed if AFC Foreign Cap rule is adopted.

The Current State

UFL Clubs can sign an unlimited amount of on foreign players but they can only play five of them at a time.  All the UFL teams maximize the five foreign player limit which has undoubtedly made the games more competitive and exciting.

The “Big Three” Clubs in Global, Loyola, and Ceres have the quality foreign players but these clubs are now seen to be building on their local players more than the foreigners.  With Ceres getting abroad-based Azkals to play for them and Global scouring the globe for players with Filipino heritage, it is interesting to see that the clubs are switched on building the local core instead of importing new players.

asean leagues caps
Looking at our ASEAN neighbors

All of our ASEAN neighbors have caps in the number of foreign players signed per team.  Thailand and Singapore allows up to five foreign players signed while Indonesia and Vietnam only allow three. Indonesia used to follow the ‘3+1’ rule but have recently reduced it to three.  Vietnam meanwhile have a ‘2+1’ rule where the plus one is assigned to a naturalized player (player of Vietnamese descent).

Singapore can sign and play five at a time just because the city-state has a small population, hence smaller player population.  Thailand meanwhile only allows four foreign players in-game which  allows a higher level of play in what is considered to be South East Asia’s best league.

Malaysia is the closest nation to adopt this ‘3+1’ AFC Competitions rule but the Malaysian Super League just recently allowed all four foreign players to play at the same time.  The current AFC rule only allows up to 3 foreign players in a game.

There is no direct correlation on the foreign cap rule versus the performance of the country’s national team but it can be seen that the best leagues implement a limit on its foreign players at the minimum.

So what can the UFL do?

If the UFL would want to change the current situation to easily comply with the AFC rules, the first step would be to implement a cap of the number of foreigners signed from unlimited to only five.  Like the S-League and the TPL, this will assure the retention of the best foreign players to maintain the quality in the league.

The second step would be to lower the number of foreign players in a game from five to four in order to free up another spot for a local player.  This step would assure the development of local players because of the additional line-up spot and an easier transition to the AFC’s 3+1 rule.

The Philippines cannot yet follow Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam’s examples  given that the Filipino player base is really low compared to its neighbors.

We can safely say that the most urgent need is to put a cap on foreign players signed per club so we can be at par with our neighbors and in some way increase the participation of local players.  Changes will need to be done in the next few years so the Clubs can easily comply in AFC competitions.

Comments & Discussion on this issue can be extended in the comments box below.

4 thoughts on “[Commentary] Should the UFL adopt the AFC Competitions’ Foreigner Cap Rule?

  1. YES!!! Definitely! “But” not that soon & not too fast!
    (For me) Give Philippine Football at least another 3 yrs.
    let the local talents mature & blossom first!!
    Where this foreign talents definitely raise the bar of Football in our country. Moreso, they motivate the locals to work more to excel playing the game.
    Natural kasi sa Pilipino ang “Manyana (Mam’ya – Mamaya na)” Habit, Ningas Cogon & Crab Mentality. Kung d kc i cha-challenge chances are babalik na naman sa complacency ang football sa bansa natin.
    After the 3 yr.period, for me the Model of Local-Foreigner Ratio Proportion of Thailad to their Domestic League is the best model that Philippine Football can emulate to our Domestic Leagues.

  2. Not this soon. But the market should start developing local programs and improve the football market first. One of UFL’s main priority is managing to increase the league’s following – and then get the money flowing in. Once the league has money – there’d hopefully be more programs to support developing talents locally.

  3. i can easily understand why your Step 2 (lower the number of foreign players on the field to 4) will help build up our league and local players, but I cannot see how and why reducing foreign players on the roster would have any significant effect. Any club that puts too many foreigners in their roster would be stupid as they would’ve shooting themselves in the leg. Most clubs have between 5-10 foreign players max – but only 5 can play at anytime.

    • With the suggestion of cutting down the total no to five, I was thinking on the lines of using the slot(s) for the younger players. By having them in the lineup and train against the vets. I see the difference with the collegiate UFL players who raise the bar for performance in the collegiate tourneys.

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