Thailand plans to merge rival football leagues

Thailand plans to spend US$4.4 million merging two national football leagues in a bid to revamp the domestic game. The Football Association of Thailand and the state-run Sports Authority of Thailand had agreed to merge their leagues to fall in line with top leagues around the world, Worawi Makudi, secretary-general of the FAT said. "We want to have the Bangkok teams and the provincial teams playing together in one national league and we hope this will make it more successful," Worawi told Martin Petty of Reuters. "It will make our league like others around the world and we have the support of the Asian Football Confederation." The Thailand Premier League, which includes teams from in and around Bangkok, and the provincial Thailand Professional League, are expected to join together in 2007, Worawi said.

The FAT gave no details of the estimated cost of the plan, although the Thai-language Daily News said the merger would cost $4.4 million. The proposal will be sent to Thailand's Tourism and Sports Minister Suvit Yodmani for approva.

Thai national team coach Charnwit Pholcheewin said the merger will raise the standard of the Thai game and help foster better players for the national side. "This is very good news for us because we want to play at a higher level our league will be like those around the world," Charnwit told Reuters. "We will see more of the provincial teams and find more players for the future to strengthen the national team."

See also: Is Thailand's 2010 World Cup target too ambitious? (3 May)