Fans hit out at twin blows for Lions' games

Khairul Amri (back to camera), celebrating his goal with Baihakki Khaizan (left) and Faris Ramli. It turned out to be Singapore's winner against Afghanistan in Thursday night's World Cup Asian Group E qualifier at the National Stadium, watched by 7,1
Khairul Amri (back to camera), celebrating his goal with Baihakki Khaizan (left) and Faris Ramli. It turned out to be Singapore's winner against Afghanistan in Thursday night's World Cup Asian Group E qualifier at the National Stadium, watched by 7,128 fans.ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI

They want World Cup qualifiers to be shown on terrestrial TV as adult tickets cost at least $28

With Singapore's World Cup qualifier against Afghanistan on Thursday shown only on pay TV and tickets to the game at the National Stadium priced steeply, local football fans were hit by a double whammy.

Senior procurement executive Hon Songwen, 30, rushed home from work specially to watch the Lions in action on television .

But to his dismay, Singapore's 1-0 victory was shown only on Eleven Sports Network on Singtel TV and not on free-to-air channels.

"Both subscribing (to Singtel) just to watch the match and paying for the tickets are costly.

"I would not subscribe just to watch, qualifiers are not a weekly affair," he said.

Fans are used to watching the Lions' matches live on free-to-air TV channels.

As part of the Media Development Authority's media market conduct code, licensees are restricted from acquiring exclusive broadcast rights for certain sporting events.

These include the Asian Games, the Commonwealth Games, the Singapore Grand Prix and football matches involving the Singapore national team (including the World Cup qualifiers).

MAKE IT EASIER TO CHEER

Not everyone can afford the time and money to make it to Kallang or have Singtel TV.

It's so difficult to support our national football team.''

HON SONGWEN, a fan who says it should be easier and cheaper to back the Lions

PRICE TO BE PAID

But, at the same time, I understand that the FAS might be afraid that showing it free on TV equates to a lower attendance at the stadium itself.''

MARK WENG, a fan, on possible FAS concerns over ticket sales

The Lions' three Asean Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup group matches last year and last month's World Cup qualifier against Syria were televised live on MediaCorp's okto channel.

A Football Association of Singapore (FAS) spokesman said discussions were held with various broadcasters to telecast the Lions' World Cup qualifiers.

But for now, only Eleven Sports Network will be showing all four of Singapore's home World Cup qualifiers.

The broadcast arrangements for the Lions' away qualifier against Afghanistan on March 29 next year have yet to be announced.

The Lions' next home fixtures feature Cambodia on Tuesday, Japan (Nov 12) and Syria (Nov 17).

The alternative for fans is to watch the World Cup qualifiers at the National Stadium where a standard ticket for the matches against Afghanistan and Cambodia costs $38 for a Category One ticket and $28 for Category Two.

Hon strongly feels that local fans should not need to pay a premium to watch a Lions match.

At last year's AFF Cup, a Category One ticket was $48 while a Category Two ticket sold for $38.

In the 2012 AFF Cup final home leg against Thailand at Jalan Besar Stadium, a grandstand ticket was $22 while a gallery seat was priced at $12.

He said: "Not everyone can afford the time and money to make it to Kallang or have Singtel TV.

"It's so difficult to support our national football team.

"All the national team games should be shown free-to-air. Singapore football already lacks fans.

"But it costs more than $100 to watch both matches with my wife. It's very steep for people who want to bring their entire family down ."

The Cambodia match is unlikely to attract a big crowd at the 55,000- capacity National Stadium, going by the fact that only 7,128 supporters turned up for the game against Afghanistan.

However, a spokesman for the FAS explained that holding the games at Kallang will help "to ensure as many supporters as possible can cheer for our national team".

"We are encouraged by the attendance at last night's match (against Afghanistan) at the Singapore Sports Hub, which was almost twice the average attendance for our three home matches of the Asian Cup 2015 qualifiers which were played at the Jalan Besar Stadium in 2013 and 2014."

Some supporters resorted to following live tweets, or live streaming from YouTube.

Undergraduate Mark Weng, 22, who relied on Twitter feeds for live match updates, said: "I think it should be on free-to-air channels to make it more accessible for fans, especially those who were unable to catch it at the stadium.

"But at the same time, I understand that the FAS might be afraid that showing it free on TV equates to a lower attendance at the stadium itself."

Manager Patrick Lim, 68, watched Thursday's game and hopes that more Singaporeans can turn up to fill the stadium.

He said: "Buying a ticket to be there to support them live is a different feeling - it's like how people will travel to England just to watch the English Premier League."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 10, 2015, with the headline 'Fans hit out at twin blows for Lions' games'. Print Edition | Subscribe