Football: Singapore Premier League Covid protocols offers hope for more events to return, says SportSG chief

(From left) Mr Ben Teng, Mr Lim Teck Yin, Mr Siew Jin Kiat, Mr Thomas Gay, Mr Bernard Tan, Mr Yazeen Buhari, Ms Tan May Lin at Epson Singapore and Geylang International’s sponsorship event on Feb 5, 2021.
(From left) Mr Ben Teng, Mr Lim Teck Yin, Mr Siew Jin Kiat, Mr Thomas Gay, Mr Bernard Tan, Mr Yazeen Buhari, Ms Tan May Lin at Epson Singapore and Geylang International’s sponsorship event on Feb 5, 2021.ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

SINGAPORE - Sport Singapore (SportSG) chief executive Lim Teck Yin lauded the Singapore Premier League (SPL) for getting its protocols right to complete last year's competition without a single positive Covid-19 case.

Lim told The Straits Times: "The SPL has done very well in working hard to come back and be the first team sports league in Singapore to demonstrate how we can play safely with players, coaches, officials and fans.

"This stands us in good stead and provides lessons learnt on how we can hold other events and leagues."

It is understood preparations are ongoing for the SPL to kick off its 26th season at the end of the month, with more than 200 players and officials set to undergo fortnightly testing again from Sunday (Feb 7).

Pending approval from Brunei and Singapore authorities, two-time champions Brunei DPMM is also set to make a return after sitting out last term due to travel restrictions from the pandemic.

Lim also praised sponsors like Epson Singapore, which on Friday announced an extension to its partnership with Geylang International. The new deal is worth six figures.

Lim said such collaborations with local football provide a "real marketing platform and not just corporate social responsibility", which he felt could be a model to follow as Singapore football seeks corporate support in its bid to qualify for World Cup 2034.

He said: "It also speaks of how SPL gives international brands like Epson a platform to be able to extend their brand and build a sense of community participation and it allow us to explore the potential, especially when we are embarking on Goal 2034, to see how they can participate in Singapore's football aspirations and align that with their own purpose."

Despite not being one of SPL's big spenders, the Eagles qualified for this season's AFC Cup after finishing fourth behind champions Albirex Niigata, Tampines Rovers and Lion City Sailors.

At Epson's new regional headquarters at Alexandra Technopark, its South-east Asia regional managing director Siew Jin Kiat said the Japanese company was "proud that our work with Geylang has provided more opportunities to Singapore's youth with a passion for sports, and it is deeply rewarding to see these efforts make such a difference to the lives of so many talented individuals".

Since coming on board in 2016, Epson has paved the way for Geylang to sign memorandums of understanding with J-League's Matsumoto Yamaga, which have led to exchange programmes for players and coaches. There have also been four editions of the Epson Youth Challenge, with strong support from ActiveSG, to increase grassroots and youth participation.

Geylang chairman Thomas Gay added: "The pandemic has presented many challenges, especially financial ones, to football clubs globally , and we are thankful to have this good relationship with Epson, a true supporter of local football and Geylang over the last five years."