Rope in private equity players to revive SPL

Singapore player Ikhsan Fandi intercepting Mongolian player Daginaa Turbat in the international football friendly match between Singapore and Mongolia on Oct 12, 2018.
Singapore player Ikhsan Fandi intercepting Mongolian player Daginaa Turbat in the international football friendly match between Singapore and Mongolia on Oct 12, 2018.PHOTO: ST FILE

One would be hard put to disagree with the points raised by Forum contributor George Pasqual (Strong funding, patronage count towards football honours, May 23).

Poor regional performance by Singapore Premier League (SPL) clubs breeds cynicism, ridicule and lack of interest, thus discouraging financial sponsors from stepping forward, which in turn leads to shortage of funds to attract, retain and develop football talent.

This then perpetuates the poor performance of SPL clubs in regional competitions such as the AFC Champions League. It is a maelstrom.

It could be worth canvassing stakeholders to view SPL clubs as distressed assets with the potential to be turned around to generate positive cash flows.

The management expertise of private equity (PE) players in Singapore, working pro bono and in good faith, might help to achieve this. They could help by raising funds that are to be invested in each SPL club and tied to covenants specific to each club - for instance, in permitting the purchase of overseas marquee players, extending players' contracts, or giving pay rises if performance milestones are achieved.

The good results so obtained will generate excitement and better football to bring in the crowds and increase ticket and merchandise sales, thereby generating an investment return for the PE players while bringing up local football standards.

It is a virtuous circle.

Local businesses and high-net-worth individuals would then be more persuaded to support local football with financial and in-kind patronage - for instance, they could host their clients at the Singapore Sports Hub in conjunction with SPL derby matches. Local beer brands could tap the SPL to increase brand awareness and have their beer cans feature the colours and emblems of SPL clubs. The spin-off possibilities could potentially be huge.

By putting on our thinking caps and working together, there is hope yet for local football clubs to receive the sustained sponsored support and adequate press coverage that would engage fans.

Woon Wee Min

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 27, 2019, with the headline 'Rope in private equity players to revive SPL'. Print Edition | Subscribe