Football: SportSG's new role hailed

Volunteer assistant coach Kenneth McGeough briefing the participants of the ActiveSG football academy. SportSG will get more involved in football by holding the purse strings for the Football Association of Singapore.
Volunteer assistant coach Kenneth McGeough briefing the participants of the ActiveSG football academy. SportSG will get more involved in football by holding the purse strings for the Football Association of Singapore.PHOTO: DYAN TJHIA

NSA chiefs cheer move towards greater transparency in local football governance

Sport administrators in Singapore have welcomed the Tote Board's move to use Sport Singapore (SportSG) as a middleman for dispersing the Board's multi-million-dollar funding for football.

For a start, it makes more sense with SportSG becoming more involved in the country's most popular game. In April last year, it launched the ActiveSG Football Academy. It now has seven centres islandwide and caters to more than 300 children aged six and above.

With the national agency now controlling the purse strings for football, this dovetails nicely with the whole ecosystem, observed Singapore Rugby Union president Low Teo Ping.

"Things were a bit disjointed initially. They had the ActiveSG academy but it seemed separate from the FAS (Football Association of Singapore)," Low, who is also one of the Singapore National Olympic Council's four vice-presidents, told The Straits Times.

"Now there's greater connection between all stakeholders and that can only be positive for the sport in Singapore."

ENSURING ACCOUNTABILITY

There are many positives to this decision. The FAS is answerable to SportSG which is now the gatekeeper and has the experience of administering funding.

BEN TAN, Singapore Sailing Federation president, welcoming the decision for SportSG to act as a go-between for the FAS and the funding from the Tote Board.

The FAS, a winner of the 2016 Charity Transparency Award, receives about $25 million a year directly from the Board. This goes into many areas like the S-League, high performance for the different national teams and various development programmes.

But it received flak last year when its 2015-16 financial report revealed that it spent a net amount of about $70,000 on grassroots football. It later clarified that the figure was closer to $250,000 when other miscellaneous costs were factored.

This still paled in comparison to the $16 million devoted to the ailing S-League and $8 million spent on the under-performing national teams, with critics calling for a more balanced distribution.

But while SportSG will now have a greater say in the direction of local football, it must work in unison with the FAS, said Singapore Sailing Federation president Ben Tan.

He said: "They are still the experts of Singapore football and understand it better than SportSG so it has to be a consultative partnership."

Besides adding an additional layer of oversight, the move, which ends a decade-long practice, will place greater accountability on the FAS which has overseen a catalogue of disappointments on and off the field.

The message was clear, said Singapore Bowling Federation president Jessie Phua. "There needs to be better transparency and this is a step in that direction."

Tan echoed her thoughts, noting: "There are many positives to this decision. The FAS is answerable to SportSG which is now the gatekeeper and has the experience of administering funding.

"The Tote Board also benefits by letting a tried-and-tested agency take charge of allocating the grants."

The Tote Board had said that the move allows it to streamline its practice, as other national sports associations (NSAs) also receive their funds via SportSG.

Yesterday, it told ST that the new arrangement with SportSG will continue for as long as it is deemed appropriate.

This new working relationship also comes at a time of change for the FAS, which will, for the first time in over three decades, elect its own set of leaders this year.

They were previously appointed by the government.

A veteran official, who declined to be named, said: "How the funds are distributed isn't really that important.

"What football needs is to get the right people to run it. They must have a clear vision and the ability and passion to lead."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 07, 2017, with the headline 'SportSG's new role hailed'. Print Edition | Subscribe