Singapore midfielder Hariss Harun to benefit from MSL rule at JDT
The Malaysian Super League (MSL) is following Thailand's lead by introducing a squad place for an ASEAN player, in addition to three foreigners and one Asian.
After the Football Malaysia LLP (FMLLP) endorsed the change in policy on Sunday, the new rule will come into effect from the 2018 season, and will be in place for at least five years.
The previous statute allowed for four foreign players and one from Asia, so the new ruling is very much designed to encourage Malaysian teams to import the best talent from the region in order to open the MSL up to new markets.
For now, the new directive can be applied only to the MSL, with the Premier League maintaining the four-foreigner rule, in addition to the FA Cup and the Malaysia Cup.
"Why only implement in the Super League?" FMLLP chief executive officer Kevin Ramalingam told The New Straits Times.
"There was a dispute [about] whether the new ruling would reduce opportunities for local players in matches, so we decided to implement it only in the top-tier competition.
"Anyway, this is a commercial decision surrounding the broadcasting of Super League matches in other countries. We want to create more interest outside the country for the league.
"The ruling will take effect next year and will be reviewed after the 2022 season. It will give us an option to abolish the ruling if it is not commercially successful after the review."
There is one further stipulation in the policy as ASEAN players should have at least 30 caps for their national teams to be eligible.
However, the FMLLP may give permission for players with under 30 caps to join a team in the MSL on a case-by-case basis.
One of the first beneficiaries of the new rule is Singapore international midfielder Hariss Harun.
The Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) midfielder spent this season on loan at Home United in the S.League after a move to Spain broke down.
However, the Malaysian champions announced the return of Hariss with a post on their Facebook page that read, "Welcome home Hariss Harun. JDT's backbone."
Argentine striker Pereyra Diaz also returns to JDT following a loan spell at Club Leon in Mexico. Diaz may able to resume his striker partnership with fellow Argentine Luciano Figueroa, who has come out of retirement to rejoin the club.
Bangkok-based Paul Murphy has lived in Asia for a decade, writing for ESPN FC since 2014. He is a former Daily Express sub-editor. @PaulMurphyBKK