Football: Stags' finances a vital factor, says FAS

Tampines head coach Jurgen Raab, appointed in January this year, directing proceedings at a training session. The Stags' cash-flow problems were revealed last year by outgoing club chairman Krishna Ramachandra.
Tampines head coach Jurgen Raab, appointed in January this year, directing proceedings at a training session. The Stags' cash-flow problems were revealed last year by outgoing club chairman Krishna Ramachandra.ST FILE PHOTO

National body urges club to tie up loose ends in the wake of chairman's recent resignation

S-League powerhouse Tampines Rovers have tip-toed along the edge of the financial cliff in recent months and with their chairman Krishna Ramachandra resigning, the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) hopes the club will be handed over with their books in order.

FAS vice-president Edwin Tong revealed this yesterday on the sidelines of a press conference to announce that the Asian Football Confederation would assist in the revamp of the S-League.

Tong said: "You can't stop someone from wanting to step down and resign but what we can do is to ensure that the club he leaves behind is sound financially, it has got proper structures and it's (the club) not disrupted by reason of the resignation.

"Those are the steps we (the FAS council) are taking to ensure that post-resignation, whenever that might be, the sound structure and financial integrity is left behind for the club."

Krishna took over the helm in November 2015 after former chairman Teo Hock Seng stepped down. Teo had led the Stags to five S-League titles in 15 years.

Krishna, 45, the managing director of law firm Duane Morris & Selvam, kicked off his tenure with a series of eye-catching moves, starting with a partnership to run a youth academy with Brazilian superstar Ronaldinho. Tampines later appointed former Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier as its international ambassador.

The joint venture with Ronaldinho folded after the International Football Group (IFG), the partner company in the deal run by Krishna's brother Gane Ramachandra, was in the news last month after it owed its employees up to eight months of unpaid salaries.

Most high-profile of all was the capture of former Arsenal and Reds winger Jermaine Pennant, signed for a season on $20,000 a month.

But it was not long before Krishna revealed that the Stags had cash-flow problems.

In January, they were fined US$2,000 (S$2,820) for failing to bring a second kit to the AFC Champions League qualifier against Global FC in Manila. A month later, the club were fined an undisclosed amount by the FAS for failing to meet the Feb 24 registration deadline for their Prime League squad.

The relationship between Krishna and Teo also soured after the lawyer sought legal representation to dispute the veracity of a loan of $190,000 from former sponsor Komoco Motors, whose regional managing director is Teo.

The Stags had also undertaken a $756,000 interest-free loan from "credit line" sponsor, Taiwanese tech company Nogle, and will start repayments of $21,000 a month only next year.

Krishna announced his decision to step down on Wednesday, citing work commitments. He said he would exit "no earlier than after Tampines' 2016 accounts have been audited and finalised".

"I will be dealing with all outstanding queries relating to Tampines' statement of accounts before stepping down," he added.

On the issue of Tampines' loan from Nogle, Tong replied: "That's something we'll look into as we discuss the matter with him (Krishna).

"It's part and parcel of ensuring all financial issues that the current management is overseeing will be left satisfactory when they step down and that's part of the equation as well.

"We must also assess, apart from the financial stability of the club he leaves behind, whether it's the right time to do so in the context of the club being in mid-season. All of these issues, the council will grapple with."

It is believed that Krishna has nominated a person named Desmond Ong to replace him.

The Straits Times also understands that the FAS council had sought the help of its adviser and former president Mah Bow Tan about a suitable candidate to helm the club.

Regardless of the potential bumps ahead, Tong believes that the transition will be smooth, saying: "We have reached out to him and he's been in touch with us. We see that he has given us statements that he intends to ensure that the financial stability of the club is maintained. I think we will be able to work it out in good time."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 23, 2017, with the headline 'Stags' finances a vital factor: FAS'. Print Edition | Subscribe