A chance to revive S-League

Last Friday, after an absence of six years, S-League football club Tampines Rovers finally returned to the place they call home.

Over 4,600 fans were at the 5,000-capacity stadium at Our Tampines Hub, built over the old Tampines Stadium which was demolished in 2013.

On the field, the Stags celebrated a 2-0 win over Brunei's DPMM.

But the real victory took place in the stands. Friday's healthy attendance was easily this season's best in a league where gates struggle to get 1,000 fans through the turnstiles.

The fillip is significant because it shows that local football fans have not abandoned the league entirely.

It also offers lessons on what can be done to bring them back into the stadiums.

It appears that the Stags - now that they are back home - are reaping the rewards of grooming a following which is more loyal than most, thanks to their community outreach efforts over the years.

They are also not afraid to innovate. Last season, they had to be given credit for trying to woo the fans back with the star signing of Jermaine Pennant, the former Arsenal and Liverpool winger.

Then there is the role of Our Tampines Hub, a regional sports centre (RSC) under the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth's Sports Masterplan. It has a shopping mall, a library, indoor sports halls, food outlets and swimming pools.

The multi-use facilities are proving to be a hit among residents. They can have an eventful day at the hub, topped off by an S-League game.

With the Government planning to build at least five such RSCs across the island, it is imperative that the Football Association of Singapore and Tampines take advantage of this renewed level of interest.

There are opportunities to market the Stags to residents, collaborate with tenants at the hub and do more outreach to youth.

The chance is now there to revive the S-League and Singapore football cannot afford to miss again.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 02, 2017, with the headline 'A chance to revive S-League'. Print Edition | Subscribe