Football: Winston Lee resigns as FAS general secretary

FAS general secretary Winston Lee at Jalan Besar Stadium on April 22, 2017.
FAS general secretary Winston Lee at Jalan Besar Stadium on April 22, 2017.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Winston Lee, the Football Association of Singapore's (FAS) general secretary for the past nine years, resigned on Friday (Dec 1).

He will leave the organisation he first joined in 1999 on Dec 31.

Yazeen Buhari, the current deputy general secretary of the FAS, will act as general secretary while the FAS searches for a permanent replacement as well as a deputy general secretary (competitions).

In an FAS statement, Lee, 52, said: "It has been 18 years since I joined the FAS and I had earlier in the year decided that it was time for me to commence the next chapter of my life journey. I was humbled by (FAS) president Lim Kia Tong's request for me to stay on and support the new council, and I agreed.

"Following the conclusion of the season and also in view of the fact that the council has finalised a good set of plans which will bring football to the next level, I decided it is timely to spend more time with my ageing mother and start the next chapter of my life. However, I have promised president Lim that I will continue to contribute to local football in any way possible."

FAS supremo Lim, who was elected on April 29 following the body's inaugural election, added: "On behalf of the football community, I want to place on record our sincere appreciation and gratitude to Winston for his unwavering commitment and accomplishments over the years. We wish Winston well in his new endeavours and we will explore ways to utilise his expertise and experience which will only strengthen our ongoing journey towards becoming a strong football nation."

Lee, who has a business degree from the National University of Singapore and also earned an MBA in marketing from the University of Iowa, joined the FAS in 1999 as its director of marketing and communication.

Since then, he has enjoyed a steady rise to the top at Jalan Besar, earning a string of high-profile appointments and international praise along the way.

In 2004, world governing body Fifa made him a marketing instructor, which has seen him conduct seminars in Oceania, Africa and across Asia. A year later, he became the chief executive officer of the S-League.

In 2008, he was named the FAS general secretary, succeeding Steven Yeo, but continued to wear the S-League CEO hat until 2011.

Two years ago, Lee was appointed one of the five vice-presidents of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC). He received high praise from AFC president Sheikh Salman Ebrahim Al-Khalifa, who said: "Winston is a strategist and a highly-regarded administrator who commands great respect in the global football community."

As general secretary, in charge of the day-to-day running of the association, one of the successes of Lee's nine-year tenure was the national team's Asean Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup triumph in 2012.

With the FAS sending a developmental team to compete across the Causeway, the LionsXII lifted the Malaysia Super League title in 2013 and the Malaysian FA Cup in 2015.

But there have been low points, too. The Lions tumbled out of the last two AFF Cups (in 2014 and 2016) after group-stage exits. Under current national coach V. Sundram Moorthy, Singapore have not won for more than a year - a barren run that has now stretched to 13 matches.

Similarly, the Young Lions had been eliminated from the last two SEA Games (in 2015 and 2017) in the group stage. The various national age-group teams had also taken a battering in recent years with a string of defeats.

On April 20, in the build-up to the FAS election, Lee was arrested by the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) in an investigation into the possible misuse of funds at National Football League side Tiong Bahru FC and an attempt to obstruct audits into clubs. Former FAS president Zainudin Nordin, Hougang United chairman Bill Ng and his wife Bonnie Wong were also arrested.

The CAD also conducted raids at the FAS' office at Jalan Besar Stadium, and at the clubhouses of Tiong Bahru, Hougang and Woodlands Wellington.