SINGAPORE - The Deloitte Women's Premier League (WPL) is set to have a new entrant next year following the formation of the JSSL Tampines Rovers women's team.
This new outfit is part of the women's football programme launched by the Singapore Premier League club and private football academy JSSL last month, as both sides extended their partnership to 2025.
While the team's bosses are hoping to see the return of JSSL alumni who have become national players, they are also looking at other sources for recruitment.
Open trials will be held on Aug 16 for women aged 16 and above, while 10 JSSL players, aged 15 to 17, will also be in the squad.
JSSL owner Harvey Davis told The Straits Times: "For us, it was a natural progression to have a professional team and not just (have our programme) stop at 17 years old for the girls.
"We've had eight JSSL alumni in the recent women's national team that went for the Asean Football Federation Women's Championship and if we can have some of them back in the programme with the selected players from the trials, it would make a good fit and we're really excited about this.
"We're also looking to bring in new players who are not attached to any club and that would bring a new dynamic as well."
JSSL alumni who are playing in the WPL include national footballers Venetia Lim, Nur Syazwani Ruzi, Danelle Tan (all Lion City Sailors) and Nur Afiqah Omar (Still Aerion).
Any player movements in the seven-team WPL can be made in January, said Davis.
A coach and team manager for the JSSL Tampines outfit will be announced early next month. The team will then compete in the Deloitte Women's National League - the second-tier league - in September before submitting their bid to be part of next year's top-tier WPL, which starts in January.
The last time Tampines had a women's team in the top-tier league was in 2016.
Tampines men's head coach Gavin Lee, who is also a technical consultant for JSSL, will help oversee the initial stages of setting up the women's team and support the women's team coach when needed.
He said: "For me, it's very exciting to see a lot of young females I used to coach when they were seven or eight have a pathway to play in the WPL.
"We have a good environment and structure but there wasn't a platform for them to get to play at the senior level. This gives a pathway to six- and seven-year-olds now and hopefully it will inspire more girls to stay in the game so we can have a bigger pool of players, which would result in a higher level of football in the women's game in years to come."
Playing in the highest level of competition in Singapore will also help the players develop faster, added Lee, 32.
Tampines chairman Desmond Ong hopes the women's game will get a lift from the SPL clubs' involvement.
He added: "We have kickstarted the WPL and with SPL clubs involved, I hope a certain degree of professionalism can bleed (into it) from the men's game.
"If you look at the larger demographic in terms of where we sit in South-east Asia, the women's game might be a tad easier than the men's game for us to make our mark.
"The national team and JSSL (youth) teams have shown they can hold their own against strong opponents so this is something we're very excited about."
Under Tampines and JSSL's women's football programme, up to 30 full scholarships to JSSL FC will also be offered to local female footballers across six age groups from Under-6 to U-16.
The scholarships, each valued at about $4,000 a year, will cover all training sessions, league and training kits as well as all league games and will be reviewed on a yearly basis.