SINGAPORE - The imminent restart of football's Singapore Premier League (SPL) is inching closer. However, a restart of Singapore's only professional sports league, which has been suspended since March 24, will also hinge on an announcement by the Covid-19 multi-ministry task force.
Speaking to members of the media after the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) annual congress on Saturday (Sept 26), the governing body's president Lim Kia Tong noted "some healthy signs" regarding the situation here and added: "With the further opening of the country and other measures involved... we hope to see resumption in the first part of October."
Local SPL teams were allowed to resume full training on Sept 1 and the FAS had initially hoped to restart the league before the end of this month.
The Straits Times understands the FAS could meet club officials before the end of next week, and, should the multi-ministry task force give the go-ahead, the first SPL game could take place on the weekend of Oct 10.
Games will be played without fans and precautions in place will be similar to when the SPL moved to closed-door matches shortly before its suspension. It is unclear if there are testing protocols required for players and teams.
FAS general secretary Yazeen Buhari said there would be changes to the format of the competition - originally, each side in the nine-team league was scheduled to play each other thrice - but did not elaborate on this.
Question marks, however, remain over the participation of defending champions Brunei DPMM. On Sept 1, Brunei and Singapore agreed to establish a reciprocal green lane (RGL) to facilitate essential business and official travel for "a limited number of" residents from both countries.
However, on Sept 19, the National Football Association of Brunei announced it would cancel its domestic Brunei Super League, as well as its youth tournaments involving the Under-19 and U-16 teams.
Lim said the FAS have been doing "everything possible" to facilitate DPMM's continuation in the SPL when it resumes, including working closely with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
DPMM have yet to resume full training - they have only been allowed to train in groups of 10 since last month - and coach Adrian Pennock acknowledged the possibility of his side not playing.
"We want to defend our title, obviously, and if the league resumes without us, it would be a shame," the Briton said in a phone call from Bandar Seri Begawan.
"But we have to look ahead. It's a very difficult decision, but we have to take note of the welfare of our staff and our team, and also the Singapore teams that have to come here to play.
"I hope (we don't have to sit out) but I totally understand if the Brunei health minister says we cannot play. It's out of our hands now, really."
In his address at the FAS congress, Lim also gave an update on the Goal 2034 project, which aims to send the Lions to the World Cup, and said FAS will form a steering committee comprising relevant stakeholders from the government, corporate sectors as well as the football fraternity.
FAS deputy president Bernard Tan added the association will work on Goal 2034 as a long-term project with intermediate targets as opposed to reviewing results on a year-by-year basis.
The FAS also announced it is working with Fifa on a subvention programme which will see amateur clubs in Singapore receive about $500,000 over two years, starting from 2021.
These clubs include those participating in the Singapore Football League (SFL), Women's Premier League, Women's National League and Island Wide League.
Amos Boon, head coach of SFL Division 2 side Singapore Cricket Club, said: "There is now greater financial incentive for every amateur side to perform well on the pitch while at the same time attain a higher level of professionalism in terms of the day to day operations."