Football: Goodbye S-League, welcome Singapore Premier League

Players and officials from eight football clubs were at the rebranding of the S-League to the Singapore Premier League yesterday. One of the league's four key areas of focus is to become a premium platform for aspiring players, where youth development is a central focus for clubs. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE
FAS president Lim Kia Tong (left) and vice-president Edwin Tong presenting the league's new logo, which features a red and blue roaring lion - the colours of Singapore and the FAS, respectively. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE
An S-League match between Albirex Niigata (in orange) and the Garena Young Lions on Aug 11, 2016. PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

The Football Association of Singapore (FAS) yesterday bid adieu to the S-League after 22 seasons and rolled out the Singapore Premier League (SPL) in its place.

While concrete details of new outreach programmes and digital platforms to better engage the community and fans will be announced at a later date, FAS president Lim Kia Tong is confident that the rebranding exercise will breathe new life into the country's only professional sports competition.

"This is definitely not a cosmetic relaunch. It is suicidal to think that when we launch this, it will definitely bring results," he said.

"A lot of effort and a lot of thinking had been put in to create this new logo. This rebranding reflects the four pillars (the SPL's four foundations) and, if we keep emphasising the four pillars, we hope that it will bring results and it (the rebranding) is not a cosmetic change."

FAS vice-president Edwin Tong said: "While we see this as an exciting start, it does not automatically mean things will be better immediately. That will not happen overnight, but we hope all will ride along on this journey with us."

At yesterday's launch at the National Stadium, the league's new name was unveiled, as well as a new logo featuring a red and blue roaring lion - the colours of Singapore and the FAS respectively - to symbolise the king of beasts charging forward, reflecting the league's urge to move ahead.

The SPL will focus on four key areas. The first is to become a premium platform for aspiring players, where youth development is a central focus for clubs.

The new quota of six Under-23 players in every local club, with three starting every match, is a move towards that direction.

Second, the league wants to raise professionalism levels, and the FAS will help clubs, officials, coaches and players to improve their competencies. The SPL's third pillar is sustainability, as it will try to ensure its brand is commercially viable and attractive to sponsors.

Finally, the league, which suffered from declining attendance and quality of play, wants to build a vibrant football culture, and the FAS has urged clubs to strengthen their connection to local communities.

To achieve this, the majority of SPL fixtures will be played at weekends, with most matches kicking off at 5.30pm and pre-match activities to entertain families.

Four league games will also be played at the National Stadium, under the FAS' memorandum of understanding signed with the Singapore Sports Hub. The SPL will also stream at least half of its matches live, and its content will be produced in-house by the FAS.

A new centralised ticketing system in partnership with APACTix will also be introduced, which allows fans to purchase tickets for all matches under the FAS umbrella - SPL matches, international friendlies and all other FAS-hosted matches - online.

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The rebranding exercise has been greeted positively by the clubs.

Home United general manager Badri Ghent said: "It (the rebranding) will provide a refreshed look and will reinvigorate the league.

"We are heartened by the approach and emphasis towards youth development, which is very much in line with the club's philosophy for many years now."

Balestier Khalsa deputy chairman Darwin Jalil said: "I think it is very crucial that we rebrand the league at this point and introduce new features. It gives a strong indication that the league is changing and we are moving away from the negative perception that seems to have stuck with the S-League."

Tampines Rovers fan Munaf Rashid, 48, likes the changes, but said: "I just hope the clubs can follow through with the new features that have been planned, because full commitment is what will make the changes really effective."

FAS' Mr Lim concluded: "Ultimately, the league exists to help build a strong national team. We want a league that belongs to all Singaporeans and one that they are proud to support and to own."

• Additional reporting by Shamir Osman

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