Football: FAS election key battle builds up

FAS provisional council president Lim Kia Tong (left) is likely to be contesting for the president's job against Hougang United chairman Bill Ng.
FAS provisional council president Lim Kia Tong (left) is likely to be contesting for the president's job against Hougang United chairman Bill Ng.PHOTOS: DESMOND WEE, BERITA HARIAN

With NFL clubs accounting for over half of votes, they are the focus of both campaigns

Just two days after the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) had called for a watershed inaugural open election, the race to win the hearts and minds of the National Football League (NFL) clubs is heating up.

With each of the 23 lower-tiered NFL sides given a vote, they form the bulk of the 44 electoral votes.

This makes the grassroots of local football the key battleground for the historic polls.

Clued in to this is the team led by FAS provisional council president Lim Kia Tong, who called for a meeting with NFL clubs at Komoco Motors yesterday evening. He is likely to be contesting for the president's job against Hougang United chairman Bill Ng.

Lim is entering a slate of nine to contest for the key council appointments in the April 29 election. He was joined by team-mates Bernard Tan, Teo Hock Seng and S. Thavaneson at yesterday's meeting.

CHANGING TACK

Previously, the NFL was managed by the S-League. Maybe that was why we were neglected, as we were not the priority.

YAKOB HASHIM, coach of NFL Division 1 side Yishun Sentek Mariners, on the Lim camp's plans for the lower leagues.

While Lim could not be reached for comment, former Woodlands Wellington general manager R. Vengadasalam, who is helping the lawyer with the election campaign, said: "We have 19 out of the 23 clubs supporting us.

"The meeting is not about giving the NFL clubs money. It's about listening to Kia Tong's vision for the league."

Venga added that the meeting was attended by 15 NFL clubs.

Yakob Hashim, the coach of NFL Division 1 club Yishun Sentek Mariners, said: "It wasn't a meeting to give us perks, but to tell us the new direction the league is heading in.

"Previously, the NFL was managed by the S-League. Maybe that was why we were neglected, as we were not the priority.

GET THINGS DONE

The wind is growing for a change in Singapore football. The incumbent can't move forward because (Lim's team) are not prepared to change.

A SPOKESMAN FOR BILL NG'S CAMP, which is quietly confident despite not going for the jugular so far.

"But Kia Tong has told us the FAS will now manage the NFL under his personal supervision.

"The league will also move forward with insurance coverage for the players, medical arrangement like having an ambulance on standby at matches as well as seed money. That is a good start and shows that the FAS is listening to the voices from the NFL."

But a team manager from an NFL Division 1 club, who declined to be named, offered a very different version of events.

He said: "Only 10 clubs were invited to the meeting and my club isn't one of them.

"Kia Tong's team didn't make any presentation to my club, unlike Bill Ng, who wants to make the grassroots his top priority."

Ng, who can count on Singapore National Olympic Council vice- president Annabel Pennefather, top lawyer Lau Kok Keng, Tampines Rovers chairman Krishna Ramachandra and Dr Teoh Chin Sim, Team Singapore's chief medical officer at the 2015 SEA Games, as high- calibre candidates on his slate.

While Lim was busy pitching his vision to the NFL last night, Ng, the 57-year-old director at a private equity firm, remains quietly confident.

A spokesman for his camp said: "The wind is growing for a change in Singapore football. The incumbent can't move forward because (Lim's team) are not prepared to change.

"However, our team will change the direction of the sail to catch the wind so we can move forward."

The nomination candidature forms for the election are to be submitted to the FAS by Saturday 6pm, and the association's electoral committee will examine the candidates' eligibility within one week.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 21, 2017, with the headline 'FAS election key battle builds up'. Print Edition | Subscribe