Football: National Stadium will be Lions' official den

National Stadium at the Singapore Sports Hub.
National Stadium at the Singapore Sports Hub.PHOTO: ST FILE

His presence at the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) Annual Congress was a surprise, and eyebrows were raised even higher when he stepped up on to the dais to address the football fraternity.

Oon Jin Teik is a former chief executive officer of national sports agency Sport Singapore, but the secretary general of the Singapore Swimming Association had no business sharing a stage as the FAS addressed its affiliates yesterday.

But Oon's words perhaps provided the brightest spark on a night when the FAS announced moves to revive the sport.

"My team and I have decided that we are going to help football, and not kick it when it's down. We want the National Stadium to be the home of the Lions," said Oon, who is the chief operating officer of the Singapore Sports Hub.

While V. Sundram Moorthy's Lions have played matches at the National Stadium, the prohibitive cost of hosting a match at the facility has seen the team play most of their games at the 6,000-seat Jalan Besar Stadium.

The Sports Hub will sign a memorandum of understanding with the FAS soon.

"Football at the National Stadium will be a long journey, and we'll run it as a marathon. We will invest in this long journey - it will not be a money-making initiative," said Oon.

Besides national team matches, other games will include S-League curtain raisers, cup finals, as well as women's and youth football games. The show of support from the Sports Hub was welcomed by the FAS.

"The cost of hosting matches at the Hub was always a sticking point for us," said FAS vice-president S. Thavaneson. "The FAS doesn't have the financial resources to incur huge losses from hosting games there. Their desire to work with us has gone a long way to help us overcome these cost implications."

FAS vice-president Edwin Tong believes this partnership will go a long way in rebuilding a football culture in Singapore.

"When you think of a European club, you instantly associate it with its home ground. I'm quite confident that by having the Lions play there, the National Stadium will become a strong focal point for football," said Tong.

Oon asserted that plans will be made in partnership with the FAS to engage fans, create demand for and supply of football for Singapore. Lions' jerseys will also be hung at dressing rooms, with branding seen across the stadium, even on non-event days.

"We, at the Sports Hub, believe in Singapore football," said Oon, to applause from the football fraternity in attendance.

"And we've made a decision that we will help Singapore football proactively to stay positive."

Shamir Osman

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 17, 2017, with the headline 'National Stadium will be Lions' official den'. Print Edition | Subscribe