FAS election 2017

Football: SportSG weighs in on donation saga

Football Association of Singapore (FAS) and Hougang United chairman Bill Ng (above) is leading a team to contest the April 29 FAS elections.
Football Association of Singapore (FAS) and Hougang United chairman Bill Ng (above) is leading a team to contest the April 29 FAS elections.ST PHOTO: JONATHAN CHOO

Team LKT also want FAS to shed light on AFF sum, Ng to open up his clubs’ accounts

Sport Singapore yesterday weighed in on the developing donations saga involving the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) and Hougang United chairman Bill Ng, who is leading a team to contest the April 29 FAS elections.

A SportSG spokesman said: "As the sports sector charity administrator, Sport Singapore will require the new council to provide a complete and satisfactory report on the management of these matters."

SportSG's comments appear to be also prompted by an ongoing audit, which it said was taking longer than expected, into the management of former S-League club Woodlands Wellington's jackpot revenue.

SportSG explained it had asked the FAS to conduct the investigation after receiving feedback from the public about the proposed merger between Hougang and Woodlands, and how the latter's assets were being apportioned.

Fans of Woodlands, who lodged the complaints, also questioned Ng's role in the merger, given that in 2011, part of his management team from Hougang helped to run debt-ridden Woodlands at the request of the S-League.

The merger, proposed in 2014, was eventually called off in 2016 with the FAS saying it was "not feasible for implementation".

SportSG's role in local football has increased. In January, it announced it would administer the funding - believed to be around $25 million annually - the FAS receives from the Tote Board, which previously disbursed it directly to FAS.

At the unveiling of his team's manifesto last Thursday, Ng had said: "Some (comments) on Facebook and forums mentioned that I took $100,000 from Woodlands into Hougang. First of all, do I need this $100,000?"

Ng said the merger had received clearance from the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore and the police, only to face constitutional limitation by "all the S-League rules".

Yesterday, he added: "When the merger did not go through because of constitutional limitations, Woodlands Wellington was returned to its management."

It was at the same event on Thursday where Ng claimed he had donated about $850,000 to the FAS but was not sure how the money was spent. He told those present to "call (FAS general secretary) Winston Lee" to find out what happened to the money.

Lee clarified that only $715,000 worth of donations the FAS received could be linked with Ng. $200,000 came from a sponsor that Ng introduced to the FAS in 2012 and went to the now-defunct LionsXII while $15,000 was raised when Ng supported the FAS via its charity golf day.

A further $500,000 came in 2014 from National Football League club Tiong Bahru FC, which Ng had taken over in 2005.

This went to the Asean Football Federation's (AFF) football management system, and Lee emphasised that Ng knew this.The FAS later said that ex-president Zainudin Nordin had asked Ng to donate.

It added that $500,000 donation "is not a qualifying donation for tax purposes. Hence FAS has complied with Singapore tax regulations and did not issue any tax deductible receipt to Tiong Bahru for this said donation."

Former FAS vice-president Lim Kia Tong, who is also leading a team at the elections, yesterday sought to distance himself and his team from Zainudin's actions.

Lim, whose nine-member slate comprises of former FAS vice-presidents Edwin Tong and Bernard Tan, said Zainudin did not mention the donation in council meetings, and asked the FAS "to be fully transparent on this AFF transaction".

He added: "We are also concerned about Mr Ng's assertion that he did not know how the money was used. If a donation has been made by a football club, let alone such a large one like this, and the club apparently has no idea where the money has gone to, then the first thing it must do is to ask."

Lim called on Ng to open the accounts of Hougang and Tiong Bahru to allay public concerns.

But lawyer Lau Kok Keng, who is a candidate for deputy president on Ng's slate, said: "It may be more expedient for SportSG to direct the general secretary and former president of the FAS to provide written explanations at this point in time on the channeling of the donated sums to the benefit of the Asean Football Federation."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 17, 2017, with the headline 'SportSG weighs in on saga'. Print Edition | Subscribe