Football: Compromise reached on pitch dispute

Home United may now use the pitches next to Block 126 Aljunied Road for training and community engagement programmes for limited hours on weekends as well as extended hours on weekdays.
Home United may now use the pitches next to Block 126 Aljunied Road for training and community engagement programmes for limited hours on weekends as well as extended hours on weekdays.ST FILE PHOTO

Home United academy can use Aljunied field for longer hours but some residents unhappy

The Singapore Land Authority (SLA) has eased its restrictions on the use of the two main football pitches at Home United Youth Football Academy (Hyfa) along Mattar Road.

Starting today, Home may use the two pitches from 9am to 6pm on Saturdays, and from 4pm to 7pm on Sundays, for training and community engagement programmes organised by the club, the agency announced yesterday.

Home may also conduct youth training activities on the two pitches from 7pm to 9pm on Mondays and Wednesdays. These are in addition to the current operating hours of 9am to 7pm on weekdays, for which public bookings are allowed.

On Nov 24 last year, in response to residents' complaints about noise generated from the activities on the two pitches, the SLA slapped an injunction on the 25ha facility, ordering the Protectors to cease activities there on weekends and after 7pm on weekdays. The 10 futsal courts were not affected by the restrictions.

Following the injunction, football academy JSSL Singapore, one of the major users of the facility, was then forced to find a new venue to conduct its programmes. It has since relocated to The Arena at Woodleigh Park.

Home's chief executive, Azrulnizam Shah Sohaimi, said the revised hours are "a positive development". He added: "Home United Football Club will ensure that our activities do not excessively inconvenience residents, while we continue to pursue Hyfa's mission of developing local football talent and developing character in youths."

NOT IDEAL BUT IT WILL DO

I hope that now they have realised how bad things can be if the noise is not controlled. Now that they can use the space, it's up to them to plan their activities bearing in mind that they should not make too much noise.

ALAN HOONG, a resident of Block 126 Aljunied Road, which is nearest the two football pitches, on the revised ruling.

MacPherson MP Tin Pei Ling added: "Residents have always understood the importance of co-existence and the need for give and take in a diverse and built-up community like ours. They appreciate a compromise that balances the needs of residents, whose homes and families are built here, and the broader sporting community."

The new operating hours drew mixed reactions from residents of Block 126 Aljunied Road, which is nearest to Hyfa. Among them, a father of two children aged four and one, who declined to be named, is dreading the return of the football activities.

He told The Straits Times that he is thinking of moving out. He said: "I'm disappointed because in the first place, the issue is that the usage of the land is wrong. Using it for one day, two days or three days is still loud noise. It's just how much less we are disturbed by the noise.

"Am I happier? I think so. But am I satisfied? No, I am not. I can only hope that when it's 2020, after the lease is up, the SLA will not renew it."

He noted that the noise level depends on the number of participants as well as the type of programmes.

He said: "For small youth outreach programmes, they tend to be less noisy. So I hope that they will look carefully at which programmes they would conduct."

Another resident living in the same block, Alan Hoong, 56, said the residents were informed of SLA's revised ruling two days ago. And while he is reluctant to accept it, he is "willing to give them (Hyfa) a chance" and hopes that the noise level will not become unbearable again.

He said: "This is a step forward for us.

"I hope that now they have realised how bad things can be if the noise is not controlled. Now that they can use the space, it's up to them to plan their activities, bearing in mind that they should not make too much noise.

"We hope that the SLA will continue to monitor the noise levels after this, and not say that this is the conclusion."

Jose Raymond, a former senior director at the Singapore Sports Hub, is not convinced that the solution is a sound one.

He questioned the handling of the issue: "What would have happened to the JSSL Singapore football academy and its 1,000-odd kids if they had not found an alternative venue very quickly?

"So while many quarters will argue and concede that this is a positive outcome, it is rather unfortunate that the damage has already been done from multiple perspectives."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 11, 2017, with the headline 'Compromise reached on pitch dispute'. Print Edition | Subscribe