Seven-pronged agenda for changing Singapore football

The S-League, led by Hougang United chairman Bill Ng (centre), is contesting the Football Association of Singapore election on April 29.
The S-League, led by Hougang United chairman Bill Ng (centre), is contesting the Football Association of Singapore election on April 29. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

The S-League has for years been an object of ridicule, its critics likening the league's declining attendance and standard with the fall of Singapore football.

But tackling the league's woes head on is at the centre of Team Game Changers' seven-pronged agenda, which they unveiled yesterday at a press conference held at the Fullerton Bay Hotel.

The team, led by Hougang United chairman Bill Ng, is contesting the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) election on April 29.

Bigger means better seems to be the guiding principle, with a proposal for a 14-team S-League. The competition currently boasts nine teams. The Game Changers also plans to introduce a promotion-relegation format featuring the National Football League (NFL).

Tampines Rovers chairman Krishna Ramachandra, who is running for one of the four vice-president positions, covered its plans for the domestic league.

He said: "We plan to widen the league, get more teams involved, (and introduce) an element of promotion from the tier below.

"We have to think about the S-League as a series of tiers and every tier of league football has a role to perform."

The NFL will also shed its image as the S-League's poorer cousin under Ng's council, who intends to divert a portion of the S-League's funding to the NFL's coffers.

More prize money and an awards night are among several initiatives proposed to revitalise the NFL.

Plans are just fanciful concepts if there are no funds to kick-start them. In this regard, Ng's team plans to revitalise the funding model of clubs, making them self-sustainable. A department will be set up to pass commercial and marketing know-how to clubs.

In a dig at Teo Hock Seng, nicknamed "The Godfather" and who is running as a vice-president in the opposing Team LKT, Ng said: "My team and I, when we take office, we will share with you how to fish rather than depend on (a) Godfather to feed you."

Compared with the nine-men Team LKT, Ng's slate boasts two female candidates. Women's football, already gaining traction under Julie Teo, FAS general manager of grassroots and women's football, is also on the order of business.

Greater participation in schools as well as in public and private academies is the target, said Annabel Pennefather, who is running for the position of vice-president.

Dr Teoh Chin Sim, the team's other female candidate, said she will reinstate a new medical infrastructure with an emphasis on medical education, safety and injury prevention and management.

Dr Teoh, who was Team Singapore's chief medical officer at the 2015 SEA Games, will also lead initiatives to prepare players for life after football. Off the field, improvement of facilities, the building of a national training centre and greater access to pitches for all teams, are also on the agenda.

Ng's team aims to implement its master-plan in four phases over two years, all these while adopting "a bottom-up approach", said Lau Kok Keng, who is running for the position of deputy president.

The former Geylang International vice-chairman added: "None of us were from the previous FAS council but that's not a bad thing.

"In the Game Changers you will have a team comprising individuals who have shown in their track records that we can provide you with the strong and passionate leadership that you are entitled to."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 14, 2017, with the headline 'Seven-pronged agenda for changing Singapore football'. Print Edition | Subscribe