S-League needs to keep up with changing times

The LionsXII's removal from the Malaysia Super League will no doubt lead to much controversy ("S'pore out of Malaysian league, leaving LionsXII in limbo"; last Thursday).

While S-League supporters will be pleased that the talent from the LionsXII will be returning, others may be unhappy at the loss of international exposure for players.

The new direction for Singapore football must balance both considerations.

International opportunities must continue for local players. This is important for the national side - by having our best and brightest participate in stronger leagues, we may expect their skills to improve.

Not only will this strengthen the national team in the short term, but skills transfer can also occur in the long term.

At the same time, the S-League must improve itself to stay relevant in Singapore football.

Too little has been done to deal with the S-League's lack of appeal.

The problem cannot be solely pinned on the rise of the Barclays Premier League.

Even as top European leagues take the world by storm, people worldwide still support their local clubs.

The size of Singapore is also not a barrier to the development of distinct club cultures.

In fact, cities like Hong Kong and London have multiple clubs that cater to different demographics.

The problem with the S-League is more fundamental. Its problem is its failure to professionalise its system of management.

Compared with many stronger leagues, it is amateurishly run.

The Football Association of Singapore and the S-League have so far failed to update their best practices and institute new ways to revolutionise the football scene.

This has led to stagnation and, thus, faltering interest.

Singapore needs a new framework to reform the league's practices.

Major League Soccer in the United States is a good example to emulate.

By instituting a centralised league body supervising all the franchises, it was able to institute key policies to improve interest and professionalise teams.

This quality management made franchises more competent and helped them to regularly draw strong crowds and talents.

Singapore must, likewise, improve the S-League's fundamentals.

The S-League must move along with the times. Only with top management and exposure can Singapore expect top results.

Ng Qi Siang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 01, 2015, with the headline 'S-League needs to keep up with changing times'. Print Edition | Subscribe