BY ZULHILMI ZAINAL Follow on Twitter
When Malaysian competitions organiser Football Malaysia LLP (FMLLP) announced on Wednesday that the Malaysia Cup will no longer be run concurrently with the league competitions beginning the 2018 season, fans questioned the decision.
After all, when the body decided to hold the cup while the leagues are still taking place back in 2016, it was done with the idea to make sure that teams that do not qualify for the prestigious competition still get to play in competitive matches throughout the full length of the season, as opposed to only two third of the season previously.
But when met by the press at the end of FMLLP's meeting with Malaysian clubs in Shah Alam on Thursday, its chief executive officer Kevin Ramalingam revealed a plan to ensure that all 24 Super League and Premier League teams will get to play throughout the 2018 season; the Challenge Cup.
He explained that the competition, which will take place along side the Malaysia Cup, will primarily involve one Super League side and seven second tier side that fail to go through the Malaysia Cup.
He however said that the competition is still in the planning stages, and added that teams that fail to qualify to the knockout stages of the Malaysia Cup may be allotted slots in the Challenge Cup.
"In the past two seasons we have tried to get every club to compete throughout the season as technically and commercially this is important for them. But because the Malaysia Cup and the leagues take place in the same period and due to the FIFA match windows, we've run into a situation whereby the three last league matches are played too far apart, around three or four weeks.
"We feel that we can improve on this, so the FMLLP board has been presented with a suggestion, which we've agreed upon, to enter the eight teams that do not qualify (to the Malaysia Cup) into the Challenge Cup. We are still in the planning stages of the Challenge Cup, and it will be competed by clubs that do not qualify for the Malaysia Cup, but we are not announcing it formally just yet.
"We're also considering to allow teams that do not advance from the Malaysia Cup group stage, to play in the Challenge Cup, much like what happens to clubs that fail to advance into the knockout stages of the (UEFA) Champions League, they go through to the Europa League instead," explained Kevin.