Football: FAS coalition for election a prospect

Football Association of Singapore (FAS) vice-president Lim Kia Tong (left) speaking at the FAS Extraordinary General Meeting (EOGM) on Nov 7, 2016. With him are FAS vice-president Edwin Tong (centre) and president Zainudin Nordin.
Football Association of Singapore (FAS) vice-president Lim Kia Tong (left) speaking at the FAS Extraordinary General Meeting (EOGM) on Nov 7, 2016. With him are FAS vice-president Edwin Tong (centre) and president Zainudin Nordin.PHOTO: ST FILE

Joint governance good in principle, say both sides, but no clear-cut options on path ahead

The formation of a coalition council was an idea mooted ever since the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) announced last November that it would hold an election.

This team would comprise members of the current provisional council, headed by interim president Lim Kia Tong, as well as members of opposing factions.

Some could also be co-opted into the FAS' standing committees. It is believed meetings between the incumbents and possible opponents are being planned.

Bernard Tan, a vice-president on the interim council, told The Straits Times yesterday: "What is most important is that the fraternity remains united and inclusive after the election.

"It doesn't mean that if one party loses, they step out of football completely. I believe there is space for all sides to come together."

There are 15 council positions up for grabs in the election, which must be held by May 31. The presidential candidate has to run as part of nine-member team, comprising a deputy president, four vice-presidents and three council members.

FINDING COMMON GROUND

It doesn't mean that if one party loses, they step out of football completely. I believe there is space for all sides to come together.

BERNARD TAN, Football Association of Singapore interim council vice-president.

Individual candidates can then contest the remaining six council member positions.

Two opposing teams have emerged after the initial buzz of the FAS' first-ever polls had subsided, although neither has revealed their full line-up.

On one side so far are the incumbents led by Lim, a lawyer, as well as FAS interim VPs Tan, who is president of the commercial business group of Singapore Technologies Kinetics, and Edwin Tong, a Senior Counsel and MP of Marine Parade GRC.

Bill Ng, chairman of S-League club Hougang United, is the other figure to confirm he will lead a team at the polls. The 57-year-old, a director at a private equity firm, said on Wednesday that he is eyeing the role of president.

His team includes Tampines Rovers chairman Krishna Ramachandra and former Geylang International vice-chairman Lau Kok Keng. Both Krishna and Lau are lawyers.

Former national player R. Sasikumar was another candidate reportedly keen on forming a third team but it is believed the managing director of sports marketing agency Red Card Global has since changed his mind.

However, it remains to be seen whether the coalition proposal is feasible, given that the different factions have to set aside their differences to work together effectively.

Ng said that while he is not against a coalition in principle and has nothing against the incumbents, he emphasised that the new president must be someone strong enough to unite the community and lead Singapore football forward.

Krishna said that a "coalition is never a bad thing" but added: "I think there should be a contest if the circumstances demand it and my own sense is that (the) incumbents have somewhat lost the faith and belief of the electorate, let alone the wider football fraternity.

"So some selflessness and sacrifice is required by the incumbents - to honourably 'take one for the team' and step aside for the greater good."

Still, nothing is cast in stone, for the landscape has proven ever-changing from day one.

After all, Ng told ST last September that he had approached former Tampines chairman Teo Hock Seng, who relinquished his role in 2014, to join his team.

But Teo, widely regarded as the godfather of local football for his contributions to the sport, has reportedly pledged to join Lim.

Teo, who is group managing director of Komoco Motors, the sole distributors for Hyundai cars here, re-entered the football scene last month when Hyundai came on board as the S-League's co-title sponsor. This, after drinks manufacturer Yeo's had decided to end its long partnership with the league.

Office bearers at the FAS, whose 2015-16 financial report showed that total revenue was $35.8 million, were previously appointed by the Government until this practice was found to contravene Fifa's regulations in 2015.

The FAS has 46 voting affiliates. A simple majority is needed to win the upcoming election.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 17, 2017, with the headline 'FAS coalition a prospect'. Print Edition | Subscribe