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.
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.
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