It was a demand from a large majority of the clubs in the sultanate over the past few months - merger of the Oman Football Association (OFA) first division and second division leagues - and finally on Saturday it got the go-ahead.
At an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) of OFA on Saturday, 30 of the 39 clubs which attended the meeting held at Hormuz Grand Muscat, voted for the merger while five voted against and four abstained. A total of 44 clubs are registered with OFA. The voting followed a proposal from the clubs to amend the statutes of OFA for the necessary action to merge the two divisions.
While the OFA first division comprises 14 clubs, the second division consists of the remaining 16 clubs. The top-flight Omantel League has 14 top clubs.
Speaking to Muscat Daily after the resolution to merge the two divisions was approved, Said Othman al Balushi, the CEO of OFA said, “It was the desire of the clubs and we agreed to call an extraordinary general meeting to address the issue. Only through the EGM is it possible to change the statutes of our constitution and with the majority voting in favour, it will be formally implemented from September 24 for the 2019-20 season.
“The EGM took place under the chairmanship of Sheikh Salim al Wahaibi, the OFA chief. We now hope that all the 30 clubs that constitute the two divisions will compete in the single league. We had noticed that over the past few years, there had been a drop in the participation of clubs in these two divisions. With the merger, hopes are high that there would be maximum participation of the clubs.”
Balushi said that to ensure a fairplay, 'the OFA has requested the FIFA, football governing body, to extend the players' registration period for the clubs in the forthcoming single league that is expected to begin in the first week of October'.
Meanwhile, officials from various first division and second division clubs welcomed the merger and said that it would help the domestic football grow and bring in more players to lift the standards of the sport in the sultanate.
Balushi, however, said the merger will not hinder the scheduled start of the 2019-20 Omantel League season with the kick-off on September 14, a day after the traditional curtain-raiser- the Super Cup - is held.
The Super Cup involves the domestic top-flight division winner Dhofar and His Majesty's Cup champion Sur and will be held at the Rustaq Stadium.
By Ashok Purohit
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