First, give fans quality football

Tampines Rovers’ fans cheering during the Singapore Premier League match against Home United at Our Tampines Hub, on Sept 29, 2018.
Tampines Rovers’ fans cheering during the Singapore Premier League match against Home United at Our Tampines Hub, on Sept 29, 2018. PHOTO: ST FILE

Mr Woon Wee Min recently said that the secret to growing the fan base of our football clubs is to engage their supporters (Engage fans and make local football great again, May 16).

Reaching out to fans goes beyond revamping a club's website and digital platform or allowing their supporters to produce and operate sites, blogs, podcasts and social media accounts.

In order for any new digital strategy to drive up attendance and merchandise sales, Singapore Premier League (SPL) clubs must go back to basics by giving their fans something to be passionate about.

Increasing the brand value of SPL teams starts with addressing the league's current lack of appeal.

Clubs must be given a bigger budget to sign genuine foreign talents who can help in the transfer of skills to local players.

The present restriction of three non-Singaporean footballers in the starting line-up will not weaken our clubs, if these players are significantly better than their teammates.

Once the standard of play improves considerably, crowds will gradually return, provided the authorities do not attempt to compete with the English Premier League by scheduling matches on weekends. If all domestic games are played on Friday evenings, more local spectators may decide to end the work week at one of the many stadiums across the island.

Once the quality of football played is comparable to the best leagues in the region and the SPL becomes more competitive, unpredictable and more exciting, attendance will grow. Corporate sponsors may also see enough payback to start pouring money into the game.

Integrating fan feedback and ideas can then be introduced to make our clubs among the most digitally connected in the region.

In order to achieve that, SPL clubs need to create something its supporters would want to engage with.

Edmund Khoo Kim Hock

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 18, 2019, with the headline 'First, give fans quality football'. Print Edition | Subscribe