Sudden end to Football Association of Singapore's AGM

FAS president Zainudin Nordin (left) and vice-president Bernard Tan at the AGM yesterday. They said there is no definite timeline for the constitution to be revised.
FAS president Zainudin Nordin (left) and vice-president Bernard Tan at the AGM yesterday. They said there is no definite timeline for the constitution to be revised.PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

FAS to gather and evaluate more feedback on changing constitution before calling for vote

In football parlance, it was as if a Cup final that remained tied had the final whistle blown before extra time or penalties could decide an outcome.

Much anticipation had built up before the Football Association of Singapore's (FAS) annual general meeting (AGM) yesterday.

Members were expected to vote on whether to pass its revised constitution, which would be the key step to allowing the fraternity to elect its own leaders for the first time in over 30 years.

Council members had previously been appointed by the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth. But this was in breach of Fifa's regulations, which frown upon government interference in football associations.

Yesterday's meeting, attended by 42 of the association's 46 members, did not even get to the topic, which was listed as the final item on the agenda.

After FAS president Zainudin Nordin opened the meeting with a speech, attention turned to the statement of accounts.

  • Timeline of AGM

  • 11.30AM
    The Football Association of Singapore's (FAS) annual general meeting (AGM) starts with a speech and video presentation by president Zainudin Nordin summarising the year in local football.

  • NOON
    Balestier Khalsa chairman and FAS council member S. Thavaneson presents the audited statement of accounts.

  • 12.15PM
    Thavaneson finishes his presentation and is immediately bombarded with questions, mostly focusing on the disbursement of funds to local clubs and grassroots.

  • 1PM
    Just as the members present are expecting the constitutional changes to be discussed, the emcee announces that the item will not be discussed until the FAS gathers more feedback. The AGM is declared closed.

At this point, some members started to speak up, with Balestier Khalsa chairman S. Thavaneson, who was standing in for Sarjit Singh in his capacity as honorary treasurer, coming under heavy fire from members for a variety of issues.

After Thava had answered the questions for almost 45 minutes, senior FAS senior officials suddenly brought the assembly to an abrupt conclusion by announcing that the AGM had ended.

The move surprised those at the meeting, and the media, who were watching the proceedings via a live feed from another room.

But Zainudin,who addressed the media at a press conference minutes later, explained: "We've decided to remove the approval of the constitution to get more feedback. This (revising the constitution) is not easy, it is a very demanding process.

"Until yesterday, we continued to receive feedback and we realised it's serious."

REASON FOR THE DECISION

We were expecting feedback that can be resolved but there was overwhelming interest, so we made this decision reluctantly. Maybe it's overconfidence or underestimation, but the interest could have been better measured.

BERNARD TAN, FAS vice-president, on postponing the approval of the constitution.

FAS vice-president Bernard Tan, who joined him at the press conference, added: "We were expecting feedback that can be resolved but there was overwhelming interest, so we made this decision reluctantly. Maybe it's overconfidence or underestimation, but the interest could have been better measured.

"But we have learnt from this episode and we will further engage our members. It's good to do a comprehensive process so that all stakeholders can buy in."

An S-League club official, who declined to be named, said after the meeting: "Maybe it would have been better if the members had been informed earlier that the constitution was not to be discussed.

"That took us by surprise."

Both Zainudin and Tan said there is no definite timeline for the constitution to be revised. It is a two-stage process that requires consensus from members and then ratification by world body Fifa.

However, Fifa's manager of member associations Luca Nicola, who was at the AGM, believes the new constitution could be passed by the end of the year.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, he said: "There's been really good progress with what's been done so far, and the skeleton of the constitution is in place.

"The FAS will now have more discussions to see what other changes can be made, but the overall consensus is that nothing too drastic needs to be done, so I think it is possible to get it passed by the end of the year."

As the council's term of office expires on Friday, Zainudin said he would seek permission from the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth to have their terms extended until an election of office bearers can take place.

While the AGM ended suddenly, senior FAS figures remained behind to gather more feedback.

Former Woodlands Wellington general manager R. Vengadasalam, who is managing a team to contest the election, revealed that the FAS top brass and Nicola spoke to him for 31/2-hours after the AGM.

Venga said: "It was not a surprise that the AGM ended abruptly as there was no time to digest so many opinions. It (the passing of the constitution) couldn't move on.

"I am glad that this (consultation process) is taken seriously. If the FAS really wants improvements, then the people's voices should be heard. It was a very productive meeting and I felt the officials showed us respect."

The first steps to revising the constitution were taken 10 months ago and Tan reiterated that the FAS would not be rushing the matter.

He said: "This (revising the FAS' constitution) is a process that has taken 10 months so far. Japan took two years (to amend its football association's constitution) and similarly, Australia and Saudi Arabia.

"Given that this is momentous and possibly the most significant change in football here, it shouldn't be taken lightly, it shouldn't be frivolous."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 25, 2016, with the headline 'Sudden end to AGM'. Print Edition | Subscribe