Leaders must think out of the box

It is less of a challenge to groom individual athletes in sports like swimming and silat, compared to regularly nurturing a squad of about 50 good football players.

Compounding the task is the host of other activities vying for the attention of our small talent pool.

Is a costly professional domestic league the only way forward to develop football in Singapore?

Many of the best players from Uruguay, Croatia and the Nordic countries ply their trade abroad, including a good number who were talent-spotted and packed off to top football academies at a tender age.

It is time to recognise that the S-League has failed to achieve its objectives and is unlikely to scale the heights befitting its significant capital outlay (Leadership key to future of S'pore football, by Mr Liew Eng Leng; July 22).

The business of football is not just about seeking sponsorships, but also about generating revenue from broadcast rights, gate receipts and other ancillary activities.

Unfortunately, revenue from gate receipts is almost non-existent here because our footballing pedigree is nowhere close to world-class levels, consigning any interest in the local game to a small group of die-hard fans and punters.

I cannot see a sustainable business model that will spur football to fresh heights, other than, perhaps, to work with like-minded partners from various leagues across the region that could yield a sizeable audience for sponsors.

Given our resource constraints, I believe Singapore can sustain four or five clubs, perhaps centred on the Singapore Armed Forces and the Home Team, and their alumni, including as part of ActiveSG.

These clubs may include a futsal side as well as other sports for more effective cross-deployment and utilisation of assets, especially in terms of support infrastructure.

Think of FC Barcelona for example, and one is looking not just at its great football squad, but also its very successful basketball and handball teams. It is also a well-recognised social cooperative.

Our officialdom must broaden its horizons and options to improve the holistic development of football and, indeed, that of sports in general.

Toh Cheng Seong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 27, 2017, with the headline 'Leaders must think out of the box'. Print Edition | Subscribe