Football: Reduced S'pore Premier League prize money offset by less severe cuts to funding

Albirex Niigata celebrate after being presented with the S-League winner's trophy in 2017.
Albirex Niigata celebrate after being presented with the S-League winner's trophy in 2017.THE NEW PAPER FILE PHOTO

The first Singapore Premier League (SPL) champions will receive $150,000 in prize money, which is $100,000 less than what Japanese club Albirex Niigata collected for winning the S-League title last year.

Prize money for the runners-up ($80,000) and third- ($40,000) and fourth-placed ($20,000) teams will also be reduced, while the bottom five in the nine-team competition will end the season empty-handed.

Last year, clubs ranked between third and seventh received between $60,000 and $25,000.

"Resources had to be re-prioritised in order to achieve the desired long-term outcomes of the SPL," said a Football Association of Singapore (FAS) spokesman.

"While the prize money for the league this season has been reduced, the FAS' key focus was on minimising the impact on the subsidies given to the clubs, (and this) was achieved with clubs receiving almost the same amount as in 2017."

In December, the FAS revealed that the clubs would receive an initial $888,200 in annual subsidies, three-quarters of the 2017 figure of $1,169,200.

But, following a belt-tightening exercise, it has managed to bump up the total to $1,001,000.

"The club subsidies are an open secret. The total amount clubs receive now is $1,001,000. The initial amount was reworked by making cuts in other areas to help clubs get more; we made a very conscious effort to cut costs in other areas," said FAS vice-president and Balestier Khalsa chairman S. Thavaneson, revealing that the cuts were made to the FAS' own budget.

While performance-linked subsidies - like the $200,000 paid to clubs who average a home attendance of 1,500 - were removed, other cuts were also made, for example, to the prize money.

The latest revelation, however, was met with a lukewarm response, despite the numbers meaning that clubs will not suffer as drastic a cut in funding as was feared late last year and the fact that clubs have seen increases in subsidies for administrative staff, foreign players, as well as a new category for the hiring of a fitness coach. "

We don't want to sound ungrateful but, while there is an increase in paper value, it has no real impact on clubs," one club official told The Straits Times on condition of anonymity.

"This system gives us a little more money for things that we already spend on, like administration, rental of facilities and insurance," he added, revealing that the costs for some of these items have gone up, including rental rates for Sport Singapore's sporting facilities.

"But cash subsidies for the monthly operational expenses that we incur for wages and things like that remain the same.

"With the expected reduction in revenues from our jackpot operations, it just means that we are really in the same position we were in at the start of the year."

Warriors FC general manager Paul Poh believes that the current system penalises extra effort.

"There is a lot of stress. We're now paying corporate rates for fields that we use, and it seems that if you want to do more - like extra training sessions for our SPL team, or sessions for our women's or youth teams - you have to pay more out of your own pocket," he said.

"It seems that for clubs who want to do more than the minimum requirement, you have to find your own money for it."