Football: Key changes for S-League in 2018

Home United's Irfan Fandi (centre) taps home the solitary goal in Home's 1-0 victory over Balestier Khalsa after Tigers goalkeeper Zaiful Nizam (on ground) fumbles a catch during the S-League match at Bishan Stadium on May 2, 2017. PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER


The six senior local clubs - Tampines Rovers, Home United, Geylang International, Warriors FC, Hougang United and Balestier Khalsa - are assured a sum of $888,200 for the 2018 season, a drop of about 19 per cent from 2017.

But Football Association of Singapore's top brass stressed that players' salaries will not be affected, with the cuts made affecting only "administrative" aspects such as insurance subsidies.


Each of the six senior local teams will have a minimum of 19 and a maximum of 25 players.

For squads with 19 to 22 players, a minimum of six players must be aged 23 and under, with another eight aged below 30.

A maximum of two foreign imports can be signed by each team, with no restrictions on their ages.

This leaves room for up to six local players in each squad who are aged 30 or older - or 36 in the entire league.

FAS deputy president Bernard Tan explained that, based on the players who were registered in the S-League for 2017, only 28 will be above 30 next year, meaning no player will be denied the chance to play because they are "overaged".

If clubs wish to register more players up to the maximum of 25, they can add only Under-23 local players to their squad.


  • Three U-23 local players must start for each team in every match.
  • An U-23 player must be replaced by another only if the substitution occurs in the first half.
  • Beyond the first half, any U-23 player can be substituted by any other team-mate.


The Young Lions, a developmental U-21 team, will compete in the S-League for another two seasons, until the end of the 2019 season.

Albirex Niigata, S-League champions in 2016 and 2017, will register a squad almost entirely aged 23 or younger.

They will register nine Under-23 players, as well as between nine and 13 Under-21 players.

Goalkeeper Yosuke Nozawa, 38, is the only player above the age of 23.

They also have the option of signing two Singaporean U-23 players.

The squad make-up of Brunei DPMM FC is still being discussed.


The upcoming season will kick off on March 31 with the Community Shield match between Albirex Niigata and Tampines Rovers at the Singapore Sports Hub.

The kick-off is scheduled so the start of the S-League is not disrupted by the international break that month.

The season will run till end-October to allow the national team to prepare for the AFF Suzuki Cup at the end of the year.

The League Cup is dropped to ease fixture congestion.

S-League matches will kick off on Saturday and Sunday evenings at 5.30pm.


The S-League could be re-branded as the Singapore Premier League, although FAS officials say discussions are ongoing.

The 2.4km fitness test will be replaced by the Yo-Yo test which will be held twice or thrice across the season.

FAS acting general secretary Yazeen Buhari said the association is still in discussions with the Singapore Sports Institute to determine the ideal passing mark.

The Prime League (an U-21 competition) will also be scrapped. Teams will be encouraged to play non-competitive matches with their reserve players, a day after scheduled S-League matches, against the same opponents at the same venues.

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