Consider having a hybrid S-League

While the news of the Tote Board halving its funds to the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) was greeted with shock and horror, I agree with Gombak United chairman John Yap that this is a chance for the S-League to make a fresh start (Mixed reactions to funding cut; Sept 10).

Ideas like shutting down the S-League for a year to effect the makeover and turning it into a semi-professional competition have been mooted.

I would like to throw another idea into the pot for consideration - having a hybrid S-League.

With the reduced funds, the FAS can, perhaps, afford to keep the league to just four professional clubs.

These four clubs for the coming season should have sustainable income and finish top four in the league ranking this year.

The rest of the clubs will be semi-professional. The challenge every season for these teams is to secure a place among the top four and become fully professional teams, with funding and all.

Having only four top local professional teams in the S-League means our youngsters would still be able to have a decent salary if they turn professional in these clubs.

If they cannot turn professional, they can still pursue their interest in football at a higher level by joining the semi-professional clubs.

This will allow them to hold down a full-time job but still play football and hang on to the dream of becoming a professional footballer one day.

The semi-professional clubs will provide more opportunities for local players with potential and passion to pursue the sport.

It would also encourage more parents to allow their children to take up football.

With this hybrid league, the FAS would still be able to enter the top S-League clubs to compete in regional competitions like the AFC Cup.

The promotion-and-relegation system among the professional and semi-professional teams will keep the four professional teams on their toes, as they would not want to lose out on the FAS funding.

This way, we can expect decent competitive football in the league.

In the longer term, more semi-professional teams could be added and the number of professional teams in the league expanded when it is financially feasible.

The objective is to build a viable S-League ecosystem for Singapore and make possible the dream of our youngsters to have a decent salary as professional footballers.

Ivan Goh Sian Lung

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 23, 2017, with the headline 'Consider having a hybrid S-League'. Print Edition | Subscribe