Commentary

With clear mandate, all eyes are on new FAS leaders to improve local football

It was a match-up tipped to go into extra-time. In the end, 28 minutes was all it took for the winner to emerge from Saturday's historic Football Association of Singapore (FAS) election.

In the days leading up to the polls, the contest was still hard to call. Both teams had shared privately that getting the required two-thirds majority in the first round might be difficult.

That the 44 affiliates took less than half an hour to give Team LKT a resounding victory took all by surprise, including the FAS staff, who had to bring forward the post-election press conference by two hours.

The disappointed faces of those from Team Game Changers and the relief that resonated in the voices of those in Team LKT as they emerged from the Sports Hub's Black Box auditorium told the story.

The Game Changers had launched their campaign with a stylish manifesto unveiling at the Fullerton Bay Hotel. Observers took note of the fresh faces on the slate, slick presentation and bold ideas.

Yet, this was subsequently derailed by the arrest of their leader, Hougang United chairman Bill Ng. He is being investigated by the Commercial Affairs Department and is out on police bail.

Team LKT also had their fair share of challenges in the run-up to the election. Comprising many members from the previous FAS council, they fought from day one to distance themselves from the previous leadership, one which the community has blamed for the decline of Singapore football.

But their ties with the community and the wider sporting eco-system that the FAS operates within ultimately worked in their favour.

 

As deputy president Bernard Tan said in the post-election press conference, their ideas might not be "incredible and fantastic" but they are pegged to the resources football can realistically hope to get.

Regardless, the affiliates have spoken and Team LKT, in sweeping all positions, received a clear mandate to lead the FAS for the next four years.

The campaign rhetoric might have been divisive at times but a common thread ran through the fraternity's conversations, whatever their allegiance - that it was time for change.

This change must start from within. While Team LKT must lead with an eye to the future, they must also look to the past and heed the lessons from that.

The drama that has unfolded over the past few weeks is proof that the FAS has serious organisational issues that must be fixed immediately.

For one, members on Team LKT claimed they were not consulted on several decisions that former FAS chief Zainudin Nordin had made, including asking Ng for a $500,000 donation to the Asean Football Federation.

They were also unaware that Ng had asked Zainudin, a former MP of Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC, to take over as Tiong Bahru FC chairman while the latter was still FAS president.

The new council must put stronger checks and balances in place. Tan talked about establishing sub-committees to look into issues of transparency and governance, and this cannot come sooner. The FAS is, after all, a registered charity operating on an annual budget of $35.8 million - well over what other sports associations get.

While the new leaders have received a resounding endorsement from the community, they should not use this to railroad policy changes. Rather, they must abide by their campaign promise to be consultative.

Many challenges lie ahead. One final whistle may have sounded but the real battle to transform Singapore football is only just kicking off.

Over to you, Team LKT.