Football: Lim Chin to helm the S-League for another year even as clubs express concerns over funding impasse

Amid uncertainty in local football, clubs look to Lim Chin as familiar figure to guide league

S-League CEO Lim Chin (centre) has participated in many promotional drives to boost the league, such as donning body paint with S-League players for a fan drive event at Orchard Road in 2013.
S-League CEO Lim Chin (centre) has participated in many promotional drives to boost the league, such as donning body paint with S-League players for a fan drive event at Orchard Road in 2013.ST FILE PHOTO

With uncertainty dogging local football, including question marks over the Football Association of Singapore's (FAS) impending leadership changes and the future of the S-League, the FAS has decided that it would be best for a familiar pair of hands to helm the competition.

The Straits Times understands that the league's chief executive officer, Lim Chin, has been given an extended contract until the end of the 2017 season.

The 54-year-old was first appointed in January 2012. Prior to leading the S-League, he was the chairman of nine-time champions Warriors FC from 2002 to 2006.

Home United chief executive Azrulnizam Shah Sohaimi welcomed the news of Lim's extension, saying: "He knows the challenges and the environment. He listens to the clubs, he is open and gives the clubs room to express ourselves."

It has certainly been a challenging time for Lim, a former army colonel who was the Chief of Artillery.

The S-League suffered from sliding attendances as some fans opted to support the LionsXII, who played in the Malaysian Super League from 2012 to 2015, instead.

There was a brief revival earlier this year when former Arsenal and Liverpool winger Jermaine Pennant signed for Tampines Rovers and the LionsXII players returned to the S-League after the team were disbanded.

This led to an initial spike in interest, with average match attendances increasing by 57 per cent. However, interest dwindled again in the latter half of the season.

Lim has earned praise for keeping a cool head in the face of stinging criticism. He has often been hit by brickbats from fans on social media, who feel that more could have been done to jazz up the S-League.

However, Balestier Khalsa general manager Cheng Tim Nee said that the CEO has handled the criticism well.

He said: "He is thick-skinned, in a good way, when he faces criticism. There have been a lot of negative comments about him on Facebook and other social media.

"But he doesn't react to them and he has tried to do his job."

While Lim's contract extension was welcome news, uppermost on the clubs' minds is the impasse over funding for the next season.

With most clubs operating on a budget of $1.2 million to $1.5 million, the $800,000 annual subsidy they receive from the Tote Board contributes a large portion of the kitty.

However, the clubs have yet to receive the subsidies as the FAS' provisional council has not obtained the funding from the Tote Board.

Cheng said: "It is hard to move forward when we don't know how much funding we will get.

"At the moment, we can only do the minimal and retain half of last season's squad. Players depend on football for their rice bowls and they are worried."

Azrulnizam added: "I hope information on the league's future can be shared more readily and expeditiously so as to help the clubs in their forward planning."

A club coach, who declined to be named, said: "It is hard to sign players when I don't know the budget. This is a situation we go through every year and we can do without this uncertainty.

"Lim and the FAS could have kept us updated. The radio silence is not good, we are not getting reassurances that the funding will come in."

The FAS did not respond to queries by press time.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 30, 2016, with the headline 'S-League CEO to get contract extension'. Subscribe