Football: Double joy for local football

The Football Association of Singapore interim president Lim Kia Tong told The Straits Times his provisional council had been working behind the scenes to ensure stability for the league amid a turbulent period for Singapore football.
The Football Association of Singapore interim president Lim Kia Tong told The Straits Times his provisional council had been working behind the scenes to ensure stability for the league amid a turbulent period for Singapore football.PHOTO: ST FILE

Funding for S-League unchanged while Albirex-Tampines opener will be at Kallang

The ailing S-League received a much-needed antidote yesterday after a high-level meeting at the Jalan Besar Stadium yesterday.

On top of being informed that it will receive the same level of funding for the new season, the league was told that Feb 26 season opener will also be played at the 55,000-capacity National Stadium.

The meeting was attended by members of the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) provisional council as well as the clubs' chairmen and key officials.

FAS interim president Lim Kia Tong told The Straits Times his provisional council had been working behind the scenes to ensure stability for the league amid a turbulent period for Singapore football.

He said: "This gives the clubs stability ahead of the new season. The provisional council is always looking at the big picture.

"We also want to market the S-League and playing at the National Stadium is one way of creating vibrancy.

JAZZ IT UP

We also want to market the S-League and playing at the National Stadium is one way of creating vibrancy.

LIM KIA TONG, FAS interim president, on playing an S-League game under the iconic dome.

"I would like to thank Manu (Sawhney, chief executive officer of the Singapore Sports Hub), who played an important role in bringing the S-League opener to the National Stadium."

Clubs operate on a budget of around $1.5 million per year and Lim said the subsidies will cover some 80 per cent of this, similar to those of last season.

He added that there were also discussions on how to promote the league in the upcoming season.

The news will provide some cheer in what is an uncertain time in local football.

Last week, local sports governing body Sport Singapore said that it would administer the funding the FAS receives from the Tote Board.

Previously, the FAS could directly administer the subsidy, believed to be around $25 million annually.

The S-League is also without a permanent chief executive officer after previous incumbent Lim Chin announced that he is stepping down on March 31.

Adding to the uncertainty is the upcoming FAS elections, which have to be held by May and is the association's first democratic election of office bearers.

Tampines Rovers chairman Krishna Ramachandra was a relieved figure after the meeting.

The Stags, league runners-up last season, will play champions Albirex Niigata in the season opener, which doubles up as the Charity Shield.

Typically, the previous year's league champions play the Singapore Cup winners in the Charity Shield. However, Albirex swept all four titles on offer last year.

Krishna said: "At last there is clarity ahead of the new season. We have had to take a leap of faith because of our Asian Football Federation (AFC) commitments and this is good news.

"We've a lot of national players in our team so we certainly look forward to playing at the National Stadium."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 14, 2017, with the headline 'Double joy for local football'. Print Edition | Subscribe