Football: FAS out to stamp out NFL mischief

Balestier United's Nurul Islam attempting to shield the ball from Yishun Sentek Mariners' Rafiq Jamal (far left) and Syazni Ramlee during their NFL Division 1 match last month.
Balestier United's Nurul Islam attempting to shield the ball from Yishun Sentek Mariners' Rafiq Jamal (far left) and Syazni Ramlee during their NFL Division 1 match last month.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

Football authority proposing harsher laws to improve governance at local amateur clubs

The Football Association of Singapore (FAS) is set to get tough with National Football League's (NFL) teams, with expulsion a very real threat for recalcitrants who cross the line.

After this year's NFL was thrown into disarray with a brawl, walkovers and registration fraud, the FAS is poised to implement stricter rules to stamp out any hint of shenanigans from local amateur clubs.

The Straits Times (ST) understands that point deductions are proposed for clubs that cannot muster the minimum seven players required to start a match. It will be accompanied with a fine heftier than this year's.

The proposals go even further. The FAS is considering expelling second-time offenders. Current competition rules state that first-time offenders will receive a $500 fine, while repeat offenders are to be slapped with a $1,000 fine.

FAS vice-president S. Thavaneson told ST: "Moving forward, competition rules will be further tightened to avoid grey areas.

"We will be stricter in enforcing action over instances like clubs conceding walkovers, and there will be moves to improve governance at NFL clubs."

One of the clearest instances of such a grey area occurred on the last day of the NFL Division 1 on Dec 6, when Katong FC avoided relegation without kicking a ball.

Unable to name seven players ahead of kick-off, the club conceded a 3-0 walkover in the rescheduled fixture and staved off relegation by virtue of a superior goal difference of one goal.

In its official complaint to the FAS, Bishan Barx - the team relegated instead - claimed Katong had brought the game into disrepute, asserting that the walkover went against sportsmanship and fair play. It was Katong's only walkover of the season.

The FAS has already shown that it is not averse to taking harsh action against clubs.

REASON BEHIND THE RULES

Clubs need to know the rules better, and we have to be sharper with administration. This is a scary example for the rest of us.

ALIM OMAR, Div 2 side South Avenue secretary, respects the would-be changes.

On Tuesday, Warwick Knights became the first NFL team to be expelled from the league since 1980, when they fielded two unregistered players who impersonated a pair who were officially ratified. The FAS threw the book at Division 2 side Warwick, with Section A 10.1 of NFL rules stating that clubs that commit such an offence "shall be expelled".

New Warwick chairman Andrew Lioe said in a post on the club's Facebook page that "draconian laws and action stifling the growth of clubs (aren't) going to help".

He added that NFL clubs are run by passionate fans who are not necessarily the "best administrators and finance advisers (who) understand how a club needs to be run".

"This can be better mitigated by working out plans and schemes to help local clubs succeed," he said.

While the FAS' stance suggests Lioe's appeal may not be successful, the Warwick man may yet get his hope for help fulfilled.

The FAS is understood to be lining up administration and management courses for NFL officials early next year. "We will provide help to club administrators with the aim of improving governance," said Thavaneson, also chairman of S-League side Balestier Khalsa.

While the FAS will only implement its new, harsher rules after engaging the clubs, the impact of its move against Warwick has already sent a strong message.

"If the rule book says so, then there's no way out," said Alim Omar, sports secretary of NFL Division 2 runner-up South Avenue.

"Clubs need to know the rules better, and we have to be sharper with administration. This is a scary example for the rest of us."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 22, 2017, with the headline 'FAS aims to stamp out NFL mischief'. Print Edition | Subscribe