THE Football Association of Singapore (FAS) has decided that S-League matches will be delayed for a maximum of two hours before a fixture is postponed owing to bad weather.
This, after six of the 35 games played this term were disrupted by the newly installed Lightning Warning System, causing much frustration and confusion among players, officials and spectators since the season started in February.
An FAS spokesman told The Straits Times yesterday that the safety of fans and players is of paramount importance.
"We have in place standard operating procedures on the necessary actions to be taken by match officials, clubs and other stakeholders based on various scenarios, including inclement weather.
"In consideration for our fans who need time to travel home, one of our policies is to reschedule any affected match due to bad weather whenever we are unable to proceed with the game by 9.30pm."
This means that some matches could end as late as 11.15pm. S-League matches, which take place mostly on weekdays, typically kick off at 7.30pm.
However, the decision to delay the matches for a maximum of two hours should the lightning alert go off has not gone down too well with fans.
Tampines Rovers supporter Arief Aditya, 24, whose team's fixture against Home United kicked off at 9.20pm last Friday, said: "I hope common sense can prevail or the S-League can say goodbye to winning new fans over.
"It is fair to wait for an hour. But to keep the fans waiting for two hours is silly. The die-hard fans don't mind waiting but many fans still have to work or attend school the next day."
Tan Hwee Heng, 37, a Geylang International supporter, agreed that it is "ridiculous to wait for two hours".
"This really tests the patience of the fans, especially on weekdays. If a match starts at 9.30pm, I would watch only one half as I live 45 minutes away from Bedok Stadium."
The frustration with the Lightning Warning System arose after some matches were delayed even though there were no flashes in the sky and no heavy rain.
For Tampines captain Mustafic Fahrudin, who arrived at Jalan Besar Stadium at 6pm last Friday, it was a frustrating wait of almost three hours in the dressing room.
He said: "It's good that the authorities care about the players but perhaps they should leave it to the referees to discuss the situation with the two coaches.
"It was only drizzling before the match against Home United. For the players, we sat inside the dressing room for almost three hours. It is very difficult to stand up after that and motivate ourselves to play."
The Lightning Warning System was installed at local S-League grounds in November. It is centrally managed by the Singapore Sports Council (SSC).
The SSC monitors weather information provided by the Meteorological Service Singapore via the National Environment Agency (NEA).
If there is any threat of lightning activity, an SSC staff member manually activates the system, which comprises a 50-second siren and strobe beacon.
While no lightning was seen at some of the matches disrupted by the system, the NEA notes that there is a common misconception that there is lightning only when there is rain.
However, lightning can strike a distance away from the thunderstorm cloud where there is no rain or even where the skies appear to be clear.
"These so-called 'bolts from the blue' have been documented to strike even as far as 16km from the thunderstorm cloud," it said.
In 2004, Jiang Tao, a player with the now-defunct Chinese S-League club Sinchi, was killed after he was struck by lightning during training at the Jurong Stadium.
Witnesses said there were no flashes of lightning until he was struck.
This story was first published in The Straits Times on April 2, 2013
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