FAS election 2017

Football: Big names rolled out

Bill Ng, chairman of S-League side Hougang, has roped in SNOC vice-president Annabel Pennefather, sports physician Teoh Chin Sim and lawyers Krishna Ramachandra and Lau Kok Keng. Lim Kia Tong, president of the current FAS provisional council, counts
Lim Kia Tong, president of the current FAS provisional council, counts vice-presidents Bernard Tan and Edwin Tong among his team members, as well as Teo Hock Seng, the well-respected former football official. ST FILE PHOTO
Bill Ng, chairman of S-League side Hougang, has roped in SNOC vice-president Annabel Pennefather, sports physician Teoh Chin Sim and lawyers Krishna Ramachandra and Lau Kok Keng.
Bill Ng, chairman of S-League side Hougang, has roped in SNOC vice-president Annabel Pennefather, sports physician Teoh Chin Sim and lawyers Krishna Ramachandra and Lau Kok Keng. ST FILE PHOTO

Ng and Lim engage in verbal sparring even as prominent figures are unveiled in each camp

Yesterday was unlike any other day in Singapore football as election chatter dominated the fraternity from dawn till dusk.

Opening salvos were fired by the two contesting teams as the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) called for its first-ever election on April 29.

Lim Kia Tong, the president of the FAS interim council who will lead a new-look team at the polls, questioned the record of opponent Bill Ng, chairman of S-League side Hougang United.

The Cheetahs' best finish came last season when they were placed sixth in the nine-team league.

Lim said: "If a person wants to bring the level of the national team up... we have to ask ourselves the question, 'Did he manage (to bring) a club up to a certain standing within a small number of 10-12 teams?'

FRESH PERSPECTIVE

We know it's a big challenge but we have to start somewhere. With my local and international experience as well as background in sports law, I believe I can bring something to the table.

ANNABEL PENNEFATHER, SNOC vice-president, on what would be her first foray into football administration.

"Talk is cheap. Realising the talk is very expensive. Each and every (candidate) must have integrity and must not come here for ulterior purposes."

Ng defended his stint at Hougang, pointing to how he turned the bleeding club into a profit-generating outfit since taking over in 2009.

A director at a private equity firm, he said: "My team and I have a track record of reform, of turning things around with the right focus and preserving the spirit of whatever we touch. Our passion for the game isn't limited to words.

 

DIFFICULT TASK

There's a lot of work to be done, starting with issues faced by the S-League and the NFL. The new council also has to tackle and improve the public perception of FAS as a whole.

DARWIN JALIL, team manager of National Football League (NFL) side Eunos Crescent, on the long list of things the incoming council has to tackle.

"I don't intend to spew any rhetoric, I'm just going to let the facts speak for the qualifications of my team and I."

Lim has plenty of experience in the game, having been an FAS council member since 1999. He is also deputy chairman of world body Fifa's disciplinary committee.

NOT LIKE THE OLD GUARD

People have been saying the incumbents are not doing certain things, so it would seem they are referring to people who have been at the FAS for a certain period of time.

LIM KIA TONG, FAS interim president, who has been on the council since 1999 but rejects the tag in describing the rest of his team.

He has the support of council members Bernard Tan, chief marketing officer at ST Engineering, as well as Edwin Tong, lawyer and an MP for Marine Parade GRC.

Tampines Rovers chairman Teo Hock Seng, a well-respected figure in Singapore football for his astute player management in the past two decades, is also in Lim's team, as is S. Thavaneson, chairman of S-League club Balestier Khalsa .

On Ng's slate is Singapore National Olympic Council vice-president Annabel Pennefather. Besides FAS interim chief Lim, the former president of the Singapore Hockey Federation is so far the only other candidate to have experience leading a national sports association.

Pennefather, also a former vice-president of the International Hockey Federation who now sits on the ethics board of the International Association of Athletics Federations, said she was convinced by the calibre of Ng's team. The other members include Dr Teoh Chin Sim, Team Singapore's chief medical officer at the 2015 SEA Games, as well as Pennefather's fellow lawyers Krishna Ramachandra and Lau Kok Keng.

Krishna is chairman of Tampines, while Lau is the former vice-chairman of Geylang International.

NEW BEGINNING

Now is the time for people with hearts in the right place to take the mantle, and offer fresh alternative measures to move forward with targeted milestones to revitalise our game.

BILL NG, the Hougang United chairman who leads the other team, believes the FAS needs a clean break from the past.

As the day wore on, word got around that Krishna could withdraw from the contest. But the 45- year-old rejected the claims, adding: "Election or otherwise, common courtesy and respect among the volunteers must be observed. There is no room for personal wars or ego - football can ill-afford it."

Whatever the make-up of their teams, whoever prevails at the election will have their hands full from day one, with a host of issues to tackle including reviving youth development, rejuvenating the struggling S-League and improving the results of the national senior team at major events like the SEA Games or AFF Suzuki Cup .

However, an S-League club official, who declined to be named, cautioned against thinking that the new council would be the panacea for the sport.

He said: "It is not so easy to transform Singapore football and you need the buy-in of various parties. Things will not change overnight."

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 19, 2017, with the headline 'Big names rolled out'. Print Edition | Subscribe