SINGAPORE - Barely five hours after saying on Tuesday (April 18) that it was the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) that had made a $500,000 donation to the Asean Football Federation (AFF), the regional body made another abrupt U-turn.
At 5.30pm, it issued a new statement that indicated that it was National Football League (NFL) club Tiong Bahru FC that made the donation to the AFF through the FAS.
The latest AFF statement said: "We received a number of media queries seeking clarification on the statement published on our website earlier, the Asean Football Federation is indeed aware that the $500,000 donation received via FA of Singapore did come from an NFL club based in Singapore.
"We apologise if our earlier statement had caused any confusion."
With talk in the local football fraternity dominated by the $500,000 donation made by Tiong Bahru FC that ended up with the AFF, the controversy escalated when the Asean body published a statement published on its website on Tueday morning (http://www.aseanfootball.org/v2/2017/04/aff-press-statement/). In the statement, the regional governing body seemed to contradict itself by saying that it was the FAS that had donated the sum to the federation.
This is in contrast to last Friday, when it named a NFL club as the donor for a football management portal to improve governance, information technology and finance matters.
The AFF said on Tuesday noon: "The AFF Council members were informed at the 3rd Council Meeting held on 6 December 2015, that the FA Singapore had donated a sum of SGD500,000 on 4 November 2015 as a payment to develop the System. The Council recorded its thanks and appreciation to FA Singapore for their effort to make the project a reality."
But early Friday morning, an AFF spokesman said through an FAS-issued statement: "We are thankful to our donors and partners who have come on board to support this new programme, including one of the FAS' NFL clubs who donated $500,000 towards the system."
Tiong Bahru chairman Bill Ng, who is leading a team called the Game Changers in the April 29 FAS election, said during the unveiling of his team's manifesto last Thursday that his club had made a $500,000 donation to the FAS with the intention to benefit Singapore football and he did not know how the money was used.
Ng also urged the media to check with FAS general secretary Winston Lee what had happened to the money. Hours later, Lee countered the claims, saying: "In 2014, FAS spoke to Mr Ng on the subject of supporting the AFF Football Management System. Mr Ng supported the project with a donation of $500,000 to AFF through FAS.
"He had full knowledge of what the donation was for, and that none of it came to the FAS. To reiterate, Mr Ng knew that the money was not being donated to FAS or any Singapore footballing activity, and to claim it was given to FAS is not factual."
On Saturday, the FAS added that it was its former president Zainudin Nordin who had approached Ng to make a donation to the AFF to procure the football management system.
That began the war of words that had since gripped the local scene. The Game Changers issued a fiery statement on Monday, insisting that Lee owes Singapore football "an explanation" and that it was the general secretary, not Zainudin, who was canvassing for donations to the AFF.
The Game Changers added that its donation cheques, totalling $500,000, were made payable to the FAS and were "strictly on the basis that the money was to be used to benefit Singapore football, especially our local clubs".