Football: In need of a sound compromise

Residents' complaints have forced Home United Youth Football Academy to shut its programmes on the premises' two main pitches on all weekday nights. The scene was also all quiet yesterday as the Singapore Land Authority has ordered that the fields ca
Residents' complaints have forced Home United Youth Football Academy to shut its programmes on the premises' two main pitches on all weekday nights. The scene was also all quiet yesterday as the Singapore Land Authority has ordered that the fields cannot be used during weekends as well.ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

Residents' anger has reached fever pitch as HYFA await further call on its field usage

Usage for the two main football pitches at the Home United Youth Football Academy (HYFA) in Mattar Road has been restricted, following complaints from residents who live in the neighbourhood.

Since the middle of last month, the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) has ordered that the fields cannot be used during weekends and weekday nights from 7pm.

Its 10 futsal pitches, located further away from Block 126, Aljunied Road - the HDB block which is nearest to HYFA - operate as per normal.

Home United's Prime League and Centre of Excellence (COE) Under-15 and U-17 teams are mostly unaffected so far by the new measures, as most of their training sessions end at 7pm.

But the facility has lost its main user, JSSL Singapore.

The football academy is the heaviest user of the two pitches as it would conduct its programmes and league matches from around 8am to 9pm on both weekends and also weekday nights.

Its rental payment makes up the bulk of HYFA's monthly rental fee, which is more than $30,000. The 25-ha facility opened in February 2013 and HYFA signed a new three-year lease last April.

JSSL Singapore has relocated to The Arena at Woodleigh Park, and managing director Harvey Davis is frustrated that his academy had to leave the premises.

"It's a complete disgrace and a disregard for our business," he said.

"We were told on Dec 15 that, with immediate effect, we could not use the place to carry on with our programmes.

"We have about 1,200 kids, among whom 600-700 of them are locals. With no warning, we're kicked out."

The latest restrictions were implemented after residents at Block 126 complained about the noise levels.

Alan Hoong, 56, said: "The shouting never stops. The constant noise has been so disruptive. My son, who was taking his A levels last year, had to shut all his windows to study.

"The noise which we are getting non-stop every day is a nuisance.

"A home is supposed to be a place where I can retreat to. Instead, the noise makes me feel agitated and anxious."

The noise has irked football supporters too. A doctor living in the same block, who declined to be named, noted that being intolerant of the noise does not mean that he does not love and support the sport.

The 37-year-old said: "I don't think it's Home's fault because they have rightfully bidded for the place. But we are truly affected by the noise. It's a matter of allocating a wrong usage for the space."

This is not the first time the group of residents have raised their concerns. Last May, they met government agencies including the SLA, Home, the Urban Redevelopment Authority, the National Environment Agency, the People's Association and the Municipal Services Office to discuss possible ways to solve the issue.

Compromises were then made by the football academies after the meeting. For example, they used whistles that were not too loud, and they moved their supporters' tents further away from the block. A hotline was also set up so that the residents could contact them.

A final resolution will be reached only after the government agencies meet Home for a discussion.

Home's chief executive Azrulnizam Sohaimi said in a statement: "HUFC and SLA are aware of complaints on noise raised by a handful of residents, and are in discussions to address the feedback received."

Yahya Madon, the COE U-17 coach, said some form of compromise is needed from both parties.

He said: "To shut the pitch totally during the weekends is too harsh. We can try to reach a compromise, like we don't use during 7-9am or 7-9pm periods."

Tin Pei Ling, MP for MacPherson, agrees. She said: "It's one example of co-existing harmoniously within a community, so some measure of give and take is necessary.

"I'm sympathetic towards my residents, and I've been listening and getting feedback from them. I've been trying to find a fair and reasonable solution with the authorities.

"When I spoke with the residents, most of them are not unreasonable to say that there should not be any activities every day. So it's about striking a balance while we try to come up with a reasonable solution with both sides."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 15, 2017, with the headline 'In need of a sound compromise'. Print Edition | Subscribe