Football: Sit-out club Tanjong Pagar United targeting return to Singapore Premier League

Tanjong Pagar last fielded a professional team in 2014, when the Singapore Premier League was still named the S-League. PHOTO: TANJONG PAGAR UNITED F.C. (OFFICIAL)

SINGAPORE - With less than two months to the Singapore Premier League's (SPL) kick-off, the saga involving Warriors FC and Gombak United has taken yet another twist, after Tanjong Pagar United announced on Saturday (Jan 11) they had applied to return to the professional league.

The Jaguars last fielded a team in 2014 when the SPL was still named the S-League, but sat out the following year because of financial woes.

In a media statement, club chairman Raymond Tang said: "The management committee of (Tanjong Pagar) is of the opinion that the club, having consolidated sufficiently following its sit-out since 2015, and with its prudent financial management, are now in a stronger financial position to make this commitment."

Tang, who took over the club's reins from Edward Liu last year, told The Straits Times that a team of around 17 players had begun training, but declined to name any players or his head coach, saying the building of the team was an "ongoing process".

He added: "There's no point naming people now anyway, because no one has actually signed a contract yet. We need the green light from the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) first."

In response to queries, an FAS spokesman confirmed the governing body had received an application from Tanjong Pagar and that it was being assessed. "We will announce our decision on this matter in due course," he said.

While fixtures for the upcoming season have not been released, the SPL typically kicks off in late February or early March.

Tanjong Pagar's announcement comes two days after the FAS reiterated its instruction for the debt-ridden Warriors FC, record nine-time champions, to sit out the season.

Warriors have been beset by financial problems since 2018 and the FAS said on Thursday that the club owed more than $800,000 to players, staff, the Central Provident Fund Board and Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore as of last year.

The club, however, are still holding out hope for a reprieve and will present a detailed plan to the FAS tomorrow to remain in the SPL. This would include a financial plan and proposals for operations, debt servicing and revenue generation.

Another sit-out club, Gombak United, who last played in 2012, are unlikely to return this season.

ST reported last December that Gombak United, another local club that has sat out since 2013 for financial reasons, could also return to the SPL this year, potentially with new management at the helm. But this was met with puzzlement by their chairman John Yap, who said he had not been approached by the FAS to prepare the club for a return.

But sources told ST that the party seeking to lead the club forward has since put the plans on ice.

Tanjong Pagar featured in the inaugural S-League season in 1996 and lifted the Singapore Cup two years later, but had to sit out in 2005, also because of money woes.

They returned in 2011 but ran into financial problems again and sat out a second time. In 2014, they were ninth out of 12 teams and were also runners-up in the now-inactive League Cup.

Said Tang: "Given the rich history (Tanjong Pagar) has, and as one of the pioneer S-League clubs, the club is confident that its re-entry to the professional league will be the start of a journey that is long-sighted, aimed at developing Singapore football through our programmes from grassroots to elite levels."

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