BY ZULHILMI ZAINAL Follow on Twitter
M-League organiser Football Malaysia LLP (FMLLP) has decided to promote Premier League sides Negeri Sembilan and PKNP FC as T-Team and Felda United's replacements in the Super League.
FMLLP chief executive officer Kevin Ramalingam announced the decisions in a press conference held on Monday. The decision on T-Team was made as they had applied to become an official feeder team to Terengganu as Terengganu FC II, and thus are not allowed to compete in the same competitions as Terengganu (now Terengganu FC).
Felda meanwhile were demoted as they had failed to obtain a club licence from the Malaysian FA (FAM) on time.
"The FMLLP board has decided against letting Felda United compete in the 2018 Super League (MSL) as they do not have a licence. They have been demoted to the Premier League for the 2018 season.
"This means two places in the league were vacant, and they will be filled by PKNP, and Negeri Sembilan," said Kevin at the FMLLP headquarters.
PKNP and Negeri Sembilan finished third and fifth in 2017 respectively, but both have obtained the neccesary FAM club licence and are not feeder clubs to any MSL teams. Fourth-place finishers Johor Darul Ta'zim II are not eligible for promotion as they are a feeder club to Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT). Premier League champions Kuala Lumpur and runners up Terengganu meanwhile have won automatic promotion to the top-tier.
When asked by the press why Pulau Pinang, who are one of the two sides relegated from MSL after the season ended, are not made to take on Negeri and PKNP in play-off matches, Kevin responded that the decision was made based on sporting merits, while admitting that no mechanism is free from criticism.
Sarawak are the other side that ended the 2017 season in the relegation zone, but they have not obtained a club licence.
"The decision was made such that sporting merits were taken into account first in terms of relegation matters. In any which way, there would be criticism accorded (to any deciding mechanism). If we were to organise a play-off stage, when would the teams play?
"Player signings for the coming season are still on-going. Let's say we held the play-off in January and PKNP won, then how would they sign players and prepare for the new season as a Super League team? The decisions have to be made early enough for the teams to prepare," he pointed out.