The new Football Association of Singapore (FAS) council has given the four inactive S-League clubs that operate jackpot rooms an ultimatum - either return to playing in the S-League, or be de-affiliated and give up their cash machines.
These jackpot rooms came under scrutiny during April's FAS election, when the Commercial Affairs Department raided Woodlands Wellington, Hougang United and National Football League club Tiong Bahru FC over suspected misuse of funds. Observers were shocked at how much fruit machines earned for the clubs. Tiong Bahru, for instance, had an annual revenue of $36.8 million last year.
Said FAS vice-president S. Thavaneson: "Surely, after the events and adverse publicity and public concern, things cannot be as usual."
The inactive clubs - Tanjong Pagar United, Gombak United, Woodlands and Sinchi FC - that are still reaping profits from fruit machines will be "no more", added fellow FAS vice-president Teo Hock Seng, telling such clubs they "cannot have the cake and eat it". "If you are not serious about football, then don't bother. Sitting out and operating jackpot rooms encourage only a high level of complacency," Mr Teo told The Sunday Times.
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De-affiliated clubs cannot run jackpot rooms under the umbrella of being professional football clubs here. They will also not be allowed to vote during FAS elections.
When contacted, some of the sit-out clubs claimed they were keen to return to the S-League, which currently has nine teams, but some were worried over whether they had the funds to run a professional team, as that had been the main reason for their sitting out.
Former Woodlands general manager R. Vengadasalam said plans are under way to propel the club, which quit the S-League in 2014, back into the professional fold.
He said: "It is fair that clubs operating jackpots should give back to football. We definitely need at least 10 clubs in the S-League to make it a viable competition again. I had spoken to (former Woodlands chairman) Tang Weng Fei about returning to hold the fort."
Gombak United chairman John Yap is also keen for his club to play in the S-League again. But he added: "We want to hear from the FAS what are the requirements for us to return, as we have no idea how much funding is needed to return to professional football."
FAS council members will meet Sport Singapore in August to find out how much funding they will receive for the next financial year.
The move to ban inactive clubs from running jackpot rooms is part of plans by an FAS committee, headed by Mr Teo and Mr Thavaneson, to revamp the S-League into a more viable and exciting competition. Other moves include introducing promotion and relegation, and instilling financial prudence among the clubs.