Football: S-League remains united with FAS, insists league CEO Lim Chin

THE S-League remains united with the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) in finding the best way forward for the embattled competition, its chief executive Lim Chin said in a statement issued on Wednesday evening.

In response to a Straits Times article published on Wednesday, the former army colonel stressed that producing a strong national team remains the main priority for the country's only professional sports league.

His remarks came after S-League club chairmen and FAS bigwigs were engaged in a heated debate during a closed-door meeting on Monday.

The chairmen's contention is that both the LionsXII (who feature in the Malaysian Super League) and the Courts Young Lions (a team largely comprising the best Under-23 players in the country which play in the S-League) are depriving the clubs of fielding top local players, and therefore killing the league.

On the back of poor attendances and a national team which have yet to win in 2015, the 20-year-old S-League is looking for fresh ideas to engage disillusioned fans.

Lim said: "We are in the preliminary stages of discussion and exploring possibilities. At this stage, it is too preliminary to go into details on what form and shape the S-League will take in future.

He also referred to the disagreement between the FAS and the club chairmen as a "healthy debate", noting there will always be differences in views and opinions when it comes to issues and ideas.

In a statement released through the FAS, Balestier Khalsa chairman S. Thavaneson admitted "strong views" were put forth at the two-hour long meeting, but that the club chairmen "stand united in wanting Singapore football to succeed".

One chairman, speaking on condition of anonymity to ST after the meeting, had accused FAS of running the S-League as a "mere sideshow".

He also pointed to a 2013 interview national coach Bernd Stange did with Malaysian media, in which the German said he would "rather have a cup of coffee" than watch an S-League match.

Jumping to the coach's defence, Lim claimed Stange was "a regular face at S-League and other local matches".

The league has yet to hit the highs of the first few seasons when crowd figures for matches regularly hit the 5,000 mark. These days, teams struggle to draw even 500 fans for a match.