Asian Football Leagues

The growth in Asian leagues over the past 20 years has been one of the main factors prompting current debate on Asian participation. The increase in such leagues can be largely attributed to the lack of support Asian teams received from affiliated leagues as well as discrimination and feelings of rejection from the football community.

However, a new generation of leagues are emerging that attempt to address this problem through the development of opportunities for clubs and teams to progress towards mainstream affiliated football leagues and enjoy the associated benefits.

Such leagues have received criticism for being exclusive and lacking in pathways for players, coaches and managers alike. In recent years Asian leagues have grown in response to an overwhelming need for more structured competitive football provision for a community in which football is its principal sport. Lack of affiliated opportunities, difficulties in organising teams with a volunteer work force and lack of resources have been some of the reasons for the growth in these leagues.

The AFL is a new generation of football league for the Asian community, which is inclusive and provides a programme of player, coach and team development. Its principal goals are to create increased participation at all levels of the game.
History. Established as the Surj Basmati League in 1992, it has 12 teams in the league and is growing every year with increasing interest. It developed into 2 divisions in 1994/95 with 25 teams.

The league is run by a dedicated team of volunteers and has recently obtained private sponsorship from Mercedes-Benz Direct. The success of the league to date is due the hard work of individuals/teams and the love of the game.
Kamal Butt AFL’s Head of Marketing & Development

Where is it?

Currently situated in locations across London with over 1000 registered players and 45 teams, 2 adult leagues and under -15s and under-13s leagues, with teams of various ages from Adult to under 13s the AFL has provide a new provision for aspiring Asian players, coaches, managers and teams.

Who’s it for?

The AFL is open to anyone with a minimum of 6 Asians players in the field of play at any time. This dismisses the common stereotype that Asian leagues are exclusive to Asians as participants are from a multi-cultural and multi-faith background, which represents London’s diverse local communities. Leagues such as the Asian Football League are a very important part of our football landscape, a place where excluded players, teams and clubs can participate in affiliated football.

The adult leagues are the first Charter Standard amateur leagues in London affiliated to London FA. This demonstrates the professionalism the AFL has installed into the administration and operation of their leagues.

Future Plans

With key partnerships in place such as the London FA facilitating football development and access to Football Foundation Small Grants funding, teams are given the support to grow as they find their feet in the crucial first few years of developing a football club.

Future progression of the league involves teams obtaining Charter Standard and with the right support using the league as a stepping-stone to semi professional football. These teams face many developmental challenges from securing funding to obtaining their own facilities, currently only very few teams have their own facilities and equal access to resources, once this is addressed we will see confident football clubs accessing mainstream provision and seeing more teams becoming semi-pro and developing grassroots structures and pathways to elite player development.

The AFL provides critical access to sustainable football participation for the Asian football community and whole football family.

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