Football: FAS vice-president Lim Kia Tong wants a strong base

Singapore football legend Fandi Ahmad conducting a football clinic for a group from Boys United Football Club. There have been increasing calls for more state support in junior football.
Singapore football legend Fandi Ahmad conducting a football clinic for a group from Boys United Football Club. There have been increasing calls for more state support in junior football.BH FILE PHOTO

FAS V-P Lim, who may run for top post, sees football being developed bottom up

He has yet to officially announce his candidacy as Football Association of Singapore (FAS) president but Lim Kia Tong gave an insight into his long-term vision should he contest and win the upcoming election.

The 64-year-old, who is currently one of four FAS vice-presidents, noted that a drastic policy change was needed to move the Republic away from "elitism football" and towards developing the game at the grassroots level.

In a two-hour media conference yesterday at Jalan Besar Stadium, he said: "Supposing I'm the team leader, I've already expressed my mindset that more attention should be focused towards grassroots, that must be the way football is run.

GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT

Now we are looking more top down because our mindset is elite football, elite football. If I'm at the helm, I will ensure grassroots football enjoys greater weightage.

LIM KIA TONG, currently one of four FAS vice-presidents , on his intended direction for local football's governing body.

"We popularise the game, get more people interested in the game, there will be renewed vibrancy and that means we are moving up to the apex and we have a better crop of players when we have a wider selection of players."

With Lim's international experience - the lawyer has been the Asian Football Confederation's disciplinary committee (DC) chairman since March 2011 and is Fifa's DC deputy chairman - he has the experience in the game's administration to succeed outgoing chief Zainudin Nordin.

Lim added: "Now we are looking more top down because our mindset is elite football, elite football. If I'm at the helm, I will ensure grassroots football enjoys greater weightage."

According to the FAS' latest 2015-16 financial report, its total revenue was $35.8 million and more than $16 million was spent on the S-League and another $8 million on the national teams' training cost.

The total organising expenses for domestic grassroots competitions was about $112,000, before $41,500 of income from registration fees was included.

Competitions like the lower-tier National Football League (NFL), where newly-capped Singapore international Shawal Anuar cut his teeth early in his career, need more support but also require a clearer purpose, noted FAS vice-president Bernard Tan, who is expected to be part of Lim's nine-man team.

Tan noted: "Are the NFL and IWL (Island Wide League) meant to be feeders to the national team or a social competition for the communities? That's something we need to have a serious dialogue about."

Change is in the air for Singapore football. The FAS has called for an extraordinary general meeting (EOGM) on Nov 7, when its 46 members will vote on the new constitution.

Among the key changes are the need for the presidential candidate to run as part of a team of nine, comprising a deputy president, four vice-presidents and three council members.

It is compulsory for a woman to be part of the team. Individual candidates can contest the remaining six council member positions, bringing the FAS council size to 15, down from the current 26.

If approved, the FAS' first election after 34 years of appointments of office bearers, including that of a new president, can then be called. Both Lim and Tan expect the election to be held within three months of the EOGM.

All affiliates have until tomorrow to propose any further changes to the reworked charter which has been sent to Fifa for approval.

The two latest revisions, following feedback from the Sept 24 annual general meeting, are to promote full participation of women at all level of football governance in the FAS' objectives and to have separate committees for disability special needs and women's football.

Lim, who led the task force which drafted the new constitution, sought to address criticism that the FAS was not receptive to other suggested amendments.

Among them included decisions made by the FAS' council and congress be conducted through a secret ballot and raising the minimum number of council and executive committee meetings to six by members.

"These were impractical to adopt," noted Lim, who stressed that the FAS will continue to engage and consult its members ahead of the EOGM.

His plan to redirect support from the top tier to the grassroots is an ambitious one, given that much of the funding is based on the rationale of "developing football for national level, for national interest", he admitted.

"But I do not believe there's no cogent argument to argue for broad-based football and get the funding needed to change the landscape of Singapore football."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 13, 2016, with the headline 'Lim wants a strong base'. Print Edition | Subscribe