Football: With 5.30pm weekend start, no rush needed

Albirex Niigata FC celebrate after being presented with the S.League winner's trophy after their match with Geylang International FC on Nov 17, 2017.
Albirex Niigata FC celebrate after being presented with the S.League winner's trophy after their match with Geylang International FC on Nov 17, 2017.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Gone are the days when S-League fans had to gobble down an early dinner after work before rushing to a stadium to catch a game.

Football Association of Singapore deputy president Bernard Tan confirmed on Tuesday (Dec 12) that the league will now see only two match days each week - Saturday and Sunday - with kick-off for all matches at 5.30pm.

The 23rd edition of the competition is pencilled in to start at the end of March and end in October to allow the national team to prepare for the biennial Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup.

The League Cup will be dropped to ease fixture congestion, at least for next year.

"On weekdays, not many may want to rush down to stadiums from their offices but this way, it gives more opportunity for football fans to come and experience the S-League. It's worth giving this a go - I will support it," said Tanjong Pagar United chairman Edward Liu, who has applied for his club to return to the league next year.

But football blogger Ko Po Hui remains doubtful, citing a 2011 project which saw good initial response from fans but numbers dwindled as the season wore on.

"In the past, the Young Lions had their weekend home games kick off at 5pm, and the response was there for all to see. It's quite obvious that having games at 5.30pm is something local fans may not be in favour of," said the 41-year-old.

How well the heat of an evening kick-off will be tolerated is debatable but Geylang International coach Noor Ali insists that it will have little effect on his players.

"Most teams train at that time anyway," he explained. "But maybe there will be some cost savings here, in the sense there won't be a need to pay for floodlights (for the full match)."

Albirex Niigata vice-chairman Koh Mui Tee hopes the changes can be fine-tuned down the road.

"We should try new things, but what I'd like to see is statistical reviews done at the end of the season to see if these new initiatives work," he said.

"Changes shouldn't be based on feelings and opinions, but on statistical facts to show that we're doing the right things."