12 points summing up the FAS saga: Implications for Singapore football

Bill Ng, Zainudin Nordin and Winston Lee.
Bill Ng, Zainudin Nordin and Winston Lee.ST PHOTOS: JONATHAN CHOO, MARK CHEONG, ST FILE

The past week has put the Singapore football scene in the spotlight, here and overseas, as world football body Fifa and regional bodies like the Asian Football Confederation, watch the build-up to Saturday's (April 29) landmark election to vote in a new set of leaders for the Football Association of Singapore.

1. What happened?

The Commercial Affairs Department conducted raids at the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) office at Jalan Besar Stadium, and the clubhouses of National Football League club Tiong Bahru FC, S-League club Hougang United and S-League "sit-out" club Woodlands Wellington on April 20. This followed a police report made by national sports governing body Sport Singapore.

2. What is the probe about?

It is about the suspected misuse of club funds at Tiong Bahru FC and a purported attempt to obstruct audits into S-League clubs which are sitting out the league.

3. Who does it involve?

For now, four individuals who are out on police bail. They are Mr Bill Ng, his wife Ms Bonnie Wong, Mr Zainudin Nordin and Mr Winston Lee.

Mr Ng is a 57-year-old corporate rescue specialist who is the chairman of Tiong Bahru and Hougang. He is leading a team called Game Changers who are contesting the FAS election on April 29.

Ms Bonnie Wong Yuk Ying, 56, is Mr Ng's wife. She is listed as the majority shareholder of Polygon Ventures, a general wholesale trade company, according to the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority. Polygon is the landlord of the units rented to house Tiong Bahru FC's clubhouse in the People's Park Centre basement.

Mr Zainudin, 53, is the former FAS president (2009-2016) and was a former Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC MP. He is now deputy principal (development) of ITE College East.

Mr Lee, 52, is FAS' current general secretary. The administrator joined the FAS in 1999 as its director of marketing and communication.

4. How did it all begin?

Mr Ng's revelation of Tiong Bahru FC's $500,000 donation to the Asean Football Federation (AFF) for its Football Management System caught the attention of the sports fraternity. The sum is double what the FAS spent on grassroots football last year.

5. What are Tiong Bahru's earnings?

The revelation was followed by media reports that the amateur club, which has 29 jackpot machines and play in the second tier of Singapore football, earned $36.8 million in revenue in the 2015/2016 financial year.

Permits to run jackpot machines are granted by the police and the number of machines a club has is tied to the number of members. Tiong Bahru FC's annual returns show it has more than 18,000 members.

6. How is Mr Ng linked to Woodlands Wellington?

As chairman of S-League club Hougang United and NFL club Tiong Bahru FC, he was tasked in 2014 to lead a merger between Hougang and Woodlands, but the move was called off after it was deemed unconstitutional.

Woodlands - having sat out of the S-League after 2014 - still runs a clubhouse with jackpot machines. It had an income of $11.3 million in its financial report for 2015.

7. What does the term "S-League sit-out clubs" mean?

Tanjong Pagar United and Woodlands have not competed in the S-League since the 2014 season. Gombak United sat out after 2012. But they all still run jackpot operations despite not fielding football teams. Gombak and Woodlands were required to vacate their premises - which were in Sport Singapore facilities - last year.

8. Does the FAS, which governs Singapore football, have control over clubs' jackpot operations?

At a press conference on April 25, members of Team LKT, some of whom sat on the previous council, said that the association has little hold on the clubs - outside of the competitions.

Team LKT's Lim Kia Tong, a lawyer and former FAS vice-president who is leading the slate at the FAS election, explained that the regulation of jackpot operations is done by the Registry of Societies, not the FAS.

9. What is the Asean Football Federation?

The Kuala Lumpur-based AFF was founded in 1984 and has 12 member nations. It still lists Mr Zainudin as a council member on its website, even though he stepped down as FAS president last November.

10. What is the AFF's Football Management System?

Mr Mariano Nonong Araneta, an AFF council member who is the president of the Philippine Football Federation, told The Straits Times that this management system is a portal which enables AFF member associations and clubs to download contract templates and log into player databases, among other things. The system reportedly costs $2 million.

The vendor - which was awarded the tender to build the management system within the next nine to 12 months - is a company called Tribal Worldwide, which is headquartered in New York and has an office in Singapore.

11. What is the impact of the ongoing police probe on the election?

Mr K. Bala Chandran, chairman of the ad hoc electoral committee which is tasked with ensuring the election runs smoothly, has been providing regular updates to world governing body Fifa regarding the ongoing police probe. He said: "I have - as the chairperson of the EC - also given my views on, and the implications of, the police investigations in so far as the Football Association of Singapore Elections are concerned. It is for Fifa to decide whether the election should proceed (on Saturday, April 29)."

12. How will the FAS election be conducted?

It will take place on April 29, when the association's 44 affiliates will, for the first time, vote in a new set of leaders.

Mr Ng's Game Changers will face Mr Lim's Team LKT for the nine-member slate positions.

There are also 14 individuals - four of whom are independent candidates not affiliated to either team - who are gunning for one of six individual council member positions.

The FAS affiliates will cast their vote at the Black Box Auditorium at the Singapore Sports Hub.

The party which garners at least a two-thirds majority of the votes (30 votes) will be declared the winner. The six individual positions will be decided by a simple majority.

 

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