FAS saga: A timeline of events

Police officers were seen entering the offices of FAS on April 20, 2017.
Police officers were seen entering the offices of FAS on April 20, 2017. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE
Former Football Association of Singapore vice-president Lim Kia Tong (centre) at a media briefing held at the Komoco Motors office on April 24, 2017. He is flanked by S. Thavaneson (left) and Bernard Tan.
Former Football Association of Singapore vice-president Lim Kia Tong (centre) at a media briefing held at the Komoco Motors office on April 24, 2017. He is flanked by S. Thavaneson (left) and Bernard Tan. PHOTO: ZAOBAO

This article was first published on April 20, 2017 and updated on April 27, 2017

SINGAPORE - Local football will know its new leaders on Saturday (April 29) after the Football Association of Singapore's (FAS) 44 affiliates vote in a historic election. 

The election, however, has been overshadowed by an ongoing police probe into the suspected misuse of funds at Tiong Bahru Football Club (TBFC), which saw four key figures - including TBFC chairman Bill Ng, former FAS president Zainudin Nordin and current FAS secretary general Winston Lee - detained to assist with investigations.

Here is a timeline of the twists and turns as the drama unfolded over the past couple of weeks. 

April 13

At the unveiling of the Game Changers' election manifesto, presidential hopeful Bill Ng reveals he has made donations totalling $850,000 to the FAS.

He claims none of the former FAS council knew anything about the donation and when asked by the media what happened to it, he asked the media to query FAS general secretary Winston Lee about the money.

April 14

Hours after Mr Ng's press conference, Mr Lee issues a statement, calling Mr Ng's insinuations "baseless and untrue". Mr Lee clarified that the FAS received a total of three payments amounting to $715,000 that could be linked with Mr Ng.

The first was a $200,000 donation in 2012 - to the now-defunct LionsXII ahead of their first season in the Malaysian Super League - from a sponsor that Mr Ng had introduced to the FAS.

The second was a $500,000 donation in 2014 from National Football League (NFL) team Tiong Bahru FC, which Mr Ng had taken over in 2005, towards developing the Asean Football Federation's (AFF) football management system.

Another $15,000 was raised when Mr Ng supported the FAS via its charity golf day.

That same day, the AFF issues a statement that thanks a Singapore NFL club for the donation.

April 15

An FAS spokesman reveals that it was former president Zainudin Nordin who had asked Mr Ng to make donations to the AFF for the system.

April 16

National sports agency Sport Singapore calls on the new FAS council, which will be elected on April 29, to "provide a complete and satisfactory report on the management of these matters".

April 17

The Game Changers sends a statement saying that "when Bill Ng agreed to Winston's request for a donation, it was strictly on the basis that the money was to be used to benefit Singapore football, especially our local clubs".

The team also insists that "the former president Mr Zainudin Nordin did not approach Mr Bill Ng over the AFF Football Management System at any time".

April 18

The AFF publishes a statement on its website at noon saying that it was the FAS which had donated the money for the Football Management System. Five hours later, the AFF performs a U-turn by amending its statement to say that it was an NFL club (Tiong Bahru) that gave the money through FAS.

In the evening, Mr Lee produces a series of cheques, payment vouchers and a letter to show that it was Mr Zainudin who had asked Mr Ng to donate the $500,000 to the AFF and that Mr Ng was aware that the money was for the AFF's Football Management System.

Mr Ng responds by saying that the FAS general secretary gave him a letter requesting a donation for the AFF's Football Management System in 2014. Mr Ng signed as he felt that he wanted to support FAS.

April 19

The dispute between Mr Ng and Mr Lee continues as both issue statements. Mr Ng said "we have reached ground zero for football in Singapore" and that "we need to start afresh from here" to which Mr Lee said Mr Ng was electioneering and added that he will "will consider my legal options moving forward and will make no further comment on this issue."

Shortly afterwards, the FAS said it was retracting Mr Lee's statement "for the time being as legal advice is being sought."

The Straits Times reported that amateur club Tiong Bahru's gross income in the last financial year was reported to be $36.8 million. The amount eclipses the FAS' budget of $35.8 million for the same period.

Although Tiong Bahru's income numbers have not been made public before, Mr Ng has made no secret of its winning formula - jackpot machines.

April 20

Just past 1.30am, Mr Ng declares that he is willing to open Tiong Bahru's books for inspection by Sport Singapore or any other government agency.

Later the same day, SportSG says it had lodged a police report the night before over the suspected misuse of Tiong Bahru's funds and a purported attempt by a senior official of the Club to delay and/or obstruct the completion of audits into the S-League sit-out clubs.

In the afternoon, the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) raided the FAS office in Jalan Besar Stadium along with the clubhouses of Tiong Bahru, Hougang United and Woodlands Wellington. Boxes of documents and several computers were taken by officers at the various locations.

April 21

The police probe widens as Mr Zainudin, Mr Lee, Mr Ng and his wife Bonnie Wong, who is the landlord of the Tiong Bahru clubhouse, were questioned by the CAD.

FAS electoral committee (EC) chairman K. Bala Chandra also met SportSG officials - for the second time this month - as SportSG wanted to share more information that led to the investigations.

After the meeting, Mr Bala Chandra told ST that the April 29 election will still proceed as the EC has no powers to stop it.

April 22

An ST report showed that the links between Mr Ng and Mr Zainudin went beyond football.

A Google cache version of Financial Frontiers' website, dated March 23, listed private equity firm ESW Manage among the companies in its portfolio. A cache is a copy of a page stored by Google as a back-up.

Up to April 15, Mr Zainudin was listed as a director of ESW Manage, on a cached version of its website. His profile has since been dropped from the company's website. ESW Manage, which is also a sponsor of Mr Ng's Hougang United, has also been removed from Financial Frontiers' portfolio.

Commercial ties aside, minutes of Tiong Bahru's annual general meeting in June 2016 confirmed that Mr Ng had asked Mr Zainudin to take over as Tiong Bahru chairman once the latter steps down as FAS president in October 2016. The minutes confirmed Mr Zainudin's election as chairman.

Mr Zainudin breaks his silence and tells Today newspaper that he and Mr Ng are not business partners and that they do not have any business dealings.

Mr Zainudin says he was appointed as adviser to ESW Manage in January 2017 and his role was to advise the company on their corporate social responsibility work. He added he had turned down the offer to be chairman of Tiong Bahru and confirmed he was assisting the authorities.

In his first public appearance, at the launch of the 2017 NFL season, Mr Lee says he and the FAS will cooperate fully with the authorities.

April 23

The AFF held a meeting over the weekend in Singapore and one member, Mariano Nonong Araneta, the president of the Philippine Football Federation, later told ST that Mr Zainudin had in a 2015 council meeting said he would find a sponsor to help cover part of the cost for the football management system.

Mr Aranet could not recall the name of the vendor but added that there were three bidders in the tender - one each from the Philippines, Singapore and Germany.

It is understood the winning bid came from a company called Tribal Worldwide, which has enterprise portal expertise and has an office in Singapore. Its website lists work it has done including for Singapore's Ministry of Communications and Information, POSB and the Republic of Singapore Air Force.

April 24

Mr Ng, his wife, Mr Zainudin and Mr Lee, who have all been assisting with the investigations, are out on police bail.

Withers KhattarWong lawyer Shashi Nathan confirmed that bail for Ng had been set at $100,000. Mr Ng's wife Bonnie Wong is believed to be represented by Rajah & Tann.

Lawyer Lim Kia Tong, who is leading Team LKT for the election, holds a media briefing and vowed to tighten governance to heal a local football scene he described as "tarnished".

Mr Lim and several of his slate members were part of the previous FAS council but stressed they had no knowledge of the $500,000 donation.

An ST investigation also reveals several football clubs like Tanjong Pagar United, Gombak United, Woodlands and Sinchi FC, continue to run jackpot operations despite not playing in the S-League for several years. Their reported gross income ranged from $165,000 to as high as $11.3 million.

April 25

Mr Bala Chandran, chairman of the ad hoc electoral committee, said he has been providing regular updates and given his views to world governing body Fifa regarding the ongoing police probe but has not received any indication whether the election will be postponed.

He added: "We are going on the basis that the election will proceed until Fifa advises otherwise, or unless a new development comes up."

He also noted that Mr Ng was still clear to contest the election and said: "There has been no communication between the Electoral Committee and the police over the current police investigations into Mr Bill Ng."

April 26

Several MPs and counsellors ST spoke to called for additional safeguards to prevent gambling addicts from frequenting jackpot operations at football clubs and for tighter regulations to ensure profits earned from these machines go towards funding a club's core purpose.

In the evening, Team LKT meets with 29 affiliates at the Amara Hotel for a dialogue session while their opponents Game Changers said they were not letting up too in their efforts to engage the affiliates.