FAS election 2017

Clean up tarnished image

(From left) S. Thavaneson, Lim Kia Tong and Bernard Tan at a media briefing at Komoco Motors yesterday. If elected, they want to ensure that clubs with jackpot operations pump some of the profits back into the local game.
(From left) S. Thavaneson, Lim Kia Tong and Bernard Tan at a media briefing at Komoco Motors yesterday. If elected, they want to ensure that clubs with jackpot operations pump some of the profits back into the local game.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Focus on donation and jackpot operations as Team LKT advocates increased transparency

Governance has been a key issue in the build-up to Saturday's Football Association of Singapore (FAS) election and Team LKT, if elected, want to tighten some controls in order to heal a local football scene they described as "tarnished".

The recent focus has been on football clubs - including those sitting out the S-League - running jackpot operations.

And the team led by former FAS vice-president Lim Kia Tong said that, if elected, they want to put measures in place to ensure that these clubs pump some of the profits back into the local game.

Lim's running mate Bernard Tan, the team's nominee for the deputy president's post, told the media yesterday: "What we can do is to make affiliation (to FAS) requirements more transparent.

"If they have jackpot operations, they should spend a certain percentage (of their profits) on football."

Also at the briefing were Lim, the presidential hopeful, and Balestier Khalsa chairman S. Thavaneson.

LOOKING TO THE FUTURE

Especially in difficult times like this, what the game needs is leadership to heal, unite and fix football. If elected, we will be very forceful in cleaning up the tarnished image.

BERNARD TAN, Team LKT member, on what local football needs. 

BOUNDARIES OF JURISDICTION

The FAS is not the regulatory body. It has only one hold on Tiong Bahru and that is (football) competitions. It doesn't have the right to audit or dictate (terms) to the clubs. The FAS has no power in this.

LIM KIA TONG, FAS presidential candidate, on the misconception that the FAS governs the jackpots in clubhouses.

They will face Tiong Bahru FC and Hougang United chairman Bill Ng, who is leading a team called the Game Changers, at the polls.

The role of jackpot machines in football has been in the news in recent days. This followed a Straits Times report last Thursday that National Football League (NFL) club Tiong Bahru FC's revenue in 2015-2016 was $36.8 million.

A police report was lodged about the suspected misuse of club funds at Tiong Bahru and an attempt to obstruct audits into clubs.

The action was followed by raids on three clubhouses - including Tiong Bahru's - and the FAS office last Thursday.

Ng was interviewed by Commercial Affairs Department officers. Also assisting in investigations are Ng's wife Bonnie, FAS general secretary Winston Lee and ex-FAS president Zainudin Nordin.

Thavaneson, who is nominated as a vice-presidential candidate, added: "The S-League clubs receive substantial funding from the Tote Board, which disburses public funds.

"That's why S-League clubs have a high degree of accountability (for the money they receive).

"The NFL clubs are on their own. But if they derive substantial income, the money should be ploughed back into football."

Currently, clubs that are sitting out the S-League like Woodlands Wellington and Gombak United continue to operate jackpot machines at their clubhouses.

Sinchi FC, a team made up of Chinese nationals that played in the S-League from 2003 to 2005, ceased to field a team at any level but still operate jackpot machines at their Sultan Plaza premises.

Lim, a lawyer, explained that the regulation of jackpot operations is done by the Registry of Societies, not the FAS.

He said: "This is a misconception (that the FAS governs the jackpots in clubhouses). The FAS is not the regulatory body. It has only one hold on Tiong Bahru and that is (football) competitions.

"It doesn't have the right to audit or dictate (terms) to the clubs. The FAS has no power in this."

Thavaneson also invited the media to view his club's accounts to have a better understanding of the inner workings of an S-League club.

Another question over governance within the FAS arose when news surfaced of a $500,000 donation from National Football League club Tiong Bahru to the Asean Football Federation in 2015.

It resulted in a dispute between Ng and FAS general secretary Lee over who and what the donation was for, and who had requested it.

Amid the dispute, there were questions as to what Lim and Tan, then vice-presidents at the FAS, and the rest of the council members such as Thavaneson, knew.

But Tan insisted: "It (the donation) was never revealed to the rest of the council, and certainly never discussed at council meetings."

He said "FAS rarely gets donations" and called Ng's donation a "highly unique transaction", insisting that the incident was "not reflective of the state of financial management in the FAS".

Nonetheless, he felt "approval matrices ought to be designed" to improve transparency.

The team insisted that there will be no let-up in their campaign efforts.

Thavaneson said: "We have engaged all members, whether they are our supporters or doubters, at least seven to eight times.

"We will continue to do so until the election."

Tan added: "Engaging affiliates is our duty. Especially in difficult times like this, what the game needs is leadership to heal, unite and fix football.

"If elected, we will be very forceful in cleaning up the tarnished image (of Singapore football) and ensure that such events won't happen again."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 25, 2017, with the headline 'Clean up tarnished image'. Print Edition | Subscribe