Football: FAS president Lim Kia Tong calls for change of mindset to improve S-League

(From left) FAS vice-president Teo Hock Seng, deputy general secretary Yazeen Buhari, president Lim Kia Tong, deputy president Bernard Tan and vice-president S. Thavaneson at an announcement detailing plans for S-League 2018. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

SINGAPORE - Football Association of Singapore (FAS) president Lim Kia Tong revealed that the plans for the S-League revamp helped the competition retain its professional status, and prevented it from going semi-pro.

"The threat of going semi-pro was very real," he told The Straits Times after the media conference on Monday (Dec 18) at the FAS' Jalan Besar headquarters.

"These past months, my team and I have been trying to make good on our promise by putting together a proposal to rejuvenate our league, to keep our professional league.

"In this process, we have a commitment to our stakeholders to justify the funds we require. We are glad to note that we have the full endorsement by stakeholders who have committed to multi-year support, so that helps clubs to plan long term."

This has helped to convince major funders Tote Board and national sports agency Sport Singapore to keep faith with the S-League, which was founded in 1996 but has struggled for quality and attendance in recent years.

The S-League will keep its existing nine-team line-up, and each of the six senior local clubs - Balestier Khalsa, Geylang International, Home United, Hougang United, Tampines Rovers and Warriors FC - can look forward to substantial subsidies of up to $888,200 if they meet key performance indicators that will be made known to them before the March 31 kick-off.

According to FAS vice-president S. Thavaneson, this represents a "19 per cent reduction from the 2017 season", but funding for the league has been secured for the next five years.

FAS acting general secretary Yazeen Buhari said that the FAS will also form an implementation task force, which will comprise club representatives and relevant stakeholders.

The FAS had met S-League club chairmen last Tuesday and informed them of a slew of upcoming changes, which includes the implementation of age quotas.

Lim confirmed that for a squad size of 19 to 22 players, they will require a minimum of six Under-23 and eight Under-30 (i.e. aged 23 to 30) players. The remaining slots may be filled with older footballers, which may include a maximum of two imports.

These rulings will apply to all clubs except the Garena Young Lions, Albirex Niigata and Brunei DPMM.

For Lim, a successful 2018 S-League season would see progress towards the four key pillars of the revamped league - youth philosophy, developing clubs' capabilities, cost efficiency and vibrant football culture.

"The overall culture - of players and management - has to change," said Lim, who noted some players' lackadaisical mindset.

"Players must know we fought to keep the professional league going... they have to be more professional.

"A renewed mindset will improve the product... more sponsors will come on board, there will be more money, and players will get longer and better contracts.

"I hope the whole landscape will change, and the starting point is the S-League."

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