Start promotion, relegation in Singapore Premier League

By increasing the number of Singapore Premier League teams one at a time, Football Association of Singapore will be able to adjust the subsidies given to local teams accordingly.
By increasing the number of Singapore Premier League teams one at a time, Football Association of Singapore will be able to adjust the subsidies given to local teams accordingly.PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

It has been almost two years since the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) council proposed the idea of promotion and relegation between the top-tiered Singapore Premier League (SPL) and second-tiered National Football League (NFL) so as to "avoid complacency" (Promotion, relegation for S-League?, June 25, 2017). Since then, there has been no change to the number of teams in the SPL.

To qualify for the annual AFC Champions League, a team must play a minimum of 27 matches in the national top division. If the SPL continues to have only nine teams, it will be structurally difficult for local teams to qualify for the continental club football competition.

One of the factors standing in the way of having promotion and relegation is how, according to FAS officials in 2017, SPL clubs typically operate on annual budgets of at least $1.2 million, while some NFL clubs cannot even muster more than $10,000 in their accounts.

To get around this and ensure the quality of any NFL team that gets promoted, I propose a system where at the end of the season, the top two NFL teams each play a match against the bottom-place SPL team.

For this match alone, the two NFL teams should be allowed to temporarily loan two to three foreign players from the other SPL teams to level the playing field according to the SPL quota.

Should one or both NFL teams defeat the SPL bottom-place team, FAS can then assess if one of the NFL teams is ready to make the jump to the SPL.

By increasing the number of SPL teams one at a time, FAS will be able to adjust the subsidies given to local teams accordingly.

FAS should repeat the process until there are 12 teams in the SPL, and, from there, a more conventional system of promotion and relegation can be introduced.

Ivan Goh

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 11, 2019, with the headline 'Start promotion, relegation in S'pore Premier League'. Print Edition | Subscribe