Football: Stags out of the woods, says chairman Krishna

Tampines Rovers chairman Krishna Ramachandra (left) is setting up a new corporate social responsibility programme aimed at helping disadvantaged youth. It will be led by former United States international footballer Thomas Silvas.
Tampines Rovers chairman Krishna Ramachandra (left) is setting up a new corporate social responsibility programme aimed at helping disadvantaged youth. It will be led by former United States international footballer Thomas Silvas.PHOTO: AZIZ HUSSIN FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Cash sponsorship worth $850,000 helps turn club around with long-term sustainable model

Dogged by headlines about cash-flow problems, rumours of players leaving and whispers of wages going unpaid in the last few months, it appears that five-time S-League champions Tampines Rovers have finally turned the corner.

Besides securing $850,000 in cash sponsorship, chairman Krishna Ramachandra said the Stags have inked a commercial deal that could net them a seven-figure sum each season, starting next year.

Of the cash injection, $750,000 is from current sponsor Nogle, a technology firm, and $100,000 is from software company Smart Utility Systems.

He told The Sunday Times: "It's almost cathartic. We can now focus fully on football without all the negative energy. The team are doing well, and for this season we're definitely out of the woods (financially).

"We've also started planning for next season, starting with the commercial partnership."

Krishna said the sponsors were sold on Tampines' philosophy, which is to "impact positively the football community and the wider community, particularly the socially underprivileged or disenfranchised", and want to work with the club to make this vision a reality.

LONG-TERM CHOICE CLEAR

I stepped into a clubhouse... and saw first-hand how clinical (the operations were) to make money from the people who were coming in daily, many of them pensioners. Our conscience was pricked.

KRISHNA RAMACHANDRA, Tampines chairman, on scrapping jackpot machines.

The commercial tie-up is with innovation venture company Renew Group, which opened a 10,000 sq ft production plant here in December.

The company plans to launch several products in Singapore and the region over the next few months, and the deal will see Tampines receive a cut from its sales.

In return, the Stags, currently second in the S-League table, will run a corporate social responsibility programme for disadvantaged youth, led by former United States international footballer Thomas Silvas.

More details on the partnership will be unveiled later.

"The sponsorship trail is a tough one even in the best of times, particularly for local football, and we needed to be innovative... I'm glad that approach has worked," said Krishna, who took over the reins of the club from long-time chairman Teo Hock Seng last November.

Tampines' money woes arose partly because they stopped running jackpot machines, which accounted for a large part of their revenue.

Local clubs typically rely on subsidies from the Football Association of Singapore, jackpot-room earnings, sponsors as well as handouts from individual backers - like club chairmen - to get by.

This model, Krishna argued, was unsustainable in the long run. He was also against the idea of relying on jackpot machines, which he called a "social ill".

While he had earlier said Tampines would run their jackpot operations in-house, he said he changed his mind while learning the ropes.

The lawyer said: "I stepped into a clubhouse for the first time and saw first-hand how clinical (the operations were) to make money from the people who were coming in daily, many of them pensioners. Our conscience was pricked. Yes there's money to be made, but at what cost?

"So we dropped that. It was difficult but I'm glad we found a brand new sponsorship model."

The latest deals come amid Tampines' flashy moves this year, including signing former Liverpool and Arsenal star Jermaine Pennant, who reportedly earns $20,000 a month, and appointing former Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier as an international ambassador.

In April, Krishna launched a football awards ceremony - the Pentagon Awards - which was graced by Johor Crown Prince Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim and which helped raise $100,000 for Beyond Social Services, an organisation that works with disadvantaged youth.

Reflecting on the troubled period, he said: "When we had cash-flow issues, I could have taken the easy way out and moved on but the philosophy of the club has pulled (us) through and we are ever the stronger for that.

"I may be volunteering somewhere else next year but now we've created a model that is not reliant on one person and which could be sustainable for years to come."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 17, 2016, with the headline 'Stags out of the woods: Krishna'. Print Edition | Subscribe