Thailand merger creates one elite football league

The Football Association of Thailand and Sports Authority of Thailand have reached agreement to merge the separately run Thailand Premier League and Thailand Professional League, concluding a divisive issue created by the former national government of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. At the end of 2005, the FAT set up the Premier League with 12 teams, mostly from the capital city, Bangkok, that met a higher level of minimum standards. It soon faced competition from the SAT-sponsored Professional League, consisting of 16 clubs, mostly from the provincial districts where the government's political support was stronger.

Since the military coup d'etat of 19 September 2006 which removed the Thaksin government, the SAT has moved towards FAT's position of it benefiting Thailand's football development for there to be only one elite football competition. However, as The Nation commented, the issue had remained unresolved, "causing sceptics to accuse the organisations of squabbling over the merged budget."

After a meeting at SAT headquarters on 5 January, the two parties broke the deadlock and announced that a revamped, 16-team Thailand Premier League will kick off on 18 March. It includes all the 12 teams from the FAT's Premier League ((Bangkok University, Osotspa, BEC Tero Sasana, Thailand Tobacco Monopoly, Bangkok Bank, Royal Thai Army, Port Authority of Thailand, Chonburi FC, Krung Thai Bank, Provincial Electrical Authority, Thai-Honda and Suphanburi FC) plus two from FAT's Division 1 (Royal Thai Police and Royal Thai Navy) and two from SAT's Professional League (Telephone Organization of Thailand and Nakhon Pathom).

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