SportsHub has part to play in developing talent

It is hardly surprising that the Singapore national football team has not been able to secure the National Stadium as its home ground, owing to the extraordinarily high cost of rental ("No Kallang home for Lions?"; Jan 13).

I am concerned that SportsHub Pte Ltd has a 25-year contract to manage the $1.3 billion facility.

Since the complex will revert to the Singapore Sports Council upon the expiry of this build-operate-transfer arrangement, it appears that commercial priorities are taking precedence over the supposed primary purpose of this arena.

Owing to high rental charges for the National Stadium, ticket prices for some exhibition soccer games were selling for up to $180.

Most Singaporean fans are simply priced out of such international-class events.

Singapore's World Cup 2018 qualifying matches against Afghanistan, Cambodia and Syria attracted only 7,128, 6,650 and 7,468 spectators respectively.

Even though 33,868 people attended the game against Japan, up to a third of them were Japanese who either travelled here or reside in Singapore.

It appears that the vast majority of Singaporeans decided to vote with their feet.

If SportsHub is committed to helping the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) build a strong fan base, it has to bring in more quality and affordable soccer games for the benefit of the public.

SportsHub has a part to play in helping us develop Singapore's sporting talent.

The landlord can start by leasing out the stadium for a fee that the FAS can afford.

Our Lions, who co-hosted the 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup, were not even permitted to train on the National Stadium field prior to their games.

The National Stadium has to host a series of international events to market Singapore as a world-class leisure and lifestyle destination.

However, the Sports Hub must not be accessible only to the rich.

If things remain as they are, interest in Singapore soccer will go into steep decline, together with the fortunes of our national team.

Edmund Khoo Kim Hock

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 17, 2017, with the headline 'SportsHub has part to play in developing talent'. Print Edition | Subscribe