The Football Association of Singapore (FAS) announced yesterday that Winston Lee, its general secretary for the past nine years, has resigned. The 52-year-old joined the FAS in 1999 and will leave the organisation on Dec 31.
Yazeen Buhari, the current deputy general secretary of the FAS, will act as general secretary while the national sports association searches for a permanent replacement as well as a deputy general secretary (competitions).
In an FAS statement, Lee 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 thanked Lee "for his unwavering commitment and accomplishments".
He added: "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 an MBA in marketing from the University of Iowa, joined the FAS in 1999 as its director of marketing and communication.
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 succeeded Steven Yeo as FAS general secretary, but continued to wear the S-League CEO hat until 2011.
Two years ago, Lee was appointed one of five vice-presidents of the Asian Football Confederation.
TAPPING ON HIS EXPERIENCE
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.
LIM KIA TONG, FAS president, thanking Winston Lee for his contributions over the years.
As general secretary, Lee was in charge of the day-to-day running of the FAS. One of the successes of his 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 Malaysia 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.
The Young Lions were eliminated from the last two SEA Games (in 2015 and 2017) in the group stage while the various national age-group teams had also taken a string of defeats in recent years.
A former FAS official, who declined to be named, said: "Winston is a hardworking guy, but it's sad to see the standard of football here slip so much.
"But I believe it will rise again."
Sebastian Tan Gee How, who failed to win a seat as an independent FAS council candidate in this year's election, added: "I feel that Winston's resignation is good for Singapore football to move on.
"I hope that the new general secretary is someone who doesn't have any connection to the current FAS council, so that we can have fresh perspectives and ideas on how to take the ailing S-League forward."
On April 20, in the build-up to the FAS election, Lee was arrested by the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) in an investigation into a possible misuse of funds at National Football League side Tiong Bahru FC and an alleged attempt to obstruct audits into clubs.
Former FAS president Zainudin Nordin, Hougang United chairman Bill Ng and his wife Bonnie Wong were also arrested.
Investigations are still going on.
The CAD also conducted raids at the FAS' office at Jalan Besar Stadium, and at the clubhouses of Tiong Bahru, Hougang and Woodlands Wellington.