Thailand League Set For Shake-Up

Thai football is looking to move to the next level with the revamping of the current league to be known as the Thai Premier League and which will kick on Saturday.
Previously known as the Thailand Premier League, the name change was necessary following the establishment of the Thai Premier League Co Ltd.

Following a hiatus of five months, the long awaited season will finally kick off and is expected to run from March to October.

The Thai Premier League Co Ltd, was established recently by the FA of Thailand (FAT), with the intention of upgrading local football along the lines of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC). All teams in the new-look Thai league must be registered as limited companies.

Several teams have changed their names or been taken over by registered companies to avoid legal problems.

The teams with new names include Pattaya United (formerly Coke-Bang Phra), Bangkok Glass FC (Krung Thai Bank), Chula United (Chula-Sinthana), Bangkok United FC (Bangkok University), Navy-Rayong FC (Royal Thai Navy) and TMM-Samut Sakhon (Tobacco Monopoly).

The other clubs in the 16-team Thai league are defending champions Provincial Electric Authirity, Chonburi FC, BEC Tero Sasana, Osotsapa, Samut Songkhram, Nakhon Pathom, Port FC, Muang Thong-Nong Jok FC, TOT FC and Sri Racha FC.

The FAT have received a budget of 70 million baht (USD1.95million) from the Sports Authority of Thailand (SAT) to organise all domestic leagues and give financial support to the clubs.

Of the 70 million baht (USD1.95million), 55 million (USD1.53million) is for the Thai Premier League and the rest for Division One, Division Two (formerly the Provincial League) and the Women's Football League.

However, the FAT have stated that they will need around 110 million (USD3.07million) baht to run the leagues and support the clubs - which means they will have to look for additional funds from sponsors and other sources.

FAT president Datuk Worawi Makudi says several private firms have already expressed their interest in supporting the leagues or certain teams.In a good sign for the future of the league, a number of Bangkok clubs have moved to the provinces in an attempt to create a new fan base.

They say it is difficult to lure fans in Bangkok to watch them play so it would be better for them to play their home games in the provinces.

Last season's champions Provincial Electric will use Ayutthaya as their home ground, while TOT FC will use Kanchanaburi as their home for the new season.