Thailand Premier League set for December launch

The new Thailand Premier League, the first-ever professional league in the country, kicks off in December through to June 2006. The 12-team league is being created from the merger of the two separate semi-professional leagues, the Thai League managed by the Football Association of Thailand and the Provincial League run by the Sports Authority of Thailand.

The founding clubs are eight teams from the Thai League (current champion Tobacco Monopoly, Provincial Electricity, Osotspa, Port Authority, Krung Thai Bank, BEC Tero Sasana, Bangkok University and Bangkok Bank) plus Royal Thai Army and FC Thai Honda from Division 1 and two from the Provincial League, Suphan Buri and Chon Buri.

“Football is at the top of a list that we would like to see progress. It is the favourite sport in our country. There are many ways to develop it and the establishment of a real professional league is a foundation. The government is determined to help the professional league become a reality,” said Deputy Prime Minister Suwat Liptapanlop, who oversees sports, at a press conference in Bangkok yesterday, attended also by the president of the Football Association of Thailand, Vijitr Getkaew.

Mr Suwat said the National Sports Development Foundation of the Sports Authority of Thailand had been tapped to provide each participating club with a development fund of 500,000 baht. The three winning teams will be awarded a further 10 million baht each and runners-up three million baht and 1.5 million baht respectively. He said he planned to use tax deductions to encourage the private sector to further support the sport’s development.

Asked whether the government would continue to support the league if the first year is not successful, he replied: “Of course, we will support it for the first four years to make sure that it can survive by itself. After that we will review the results before making another decision. However, I am convinced it will succeed.”