The Central Provident Fund Board is investigating local S-League clubs for possible non-payment of CPF contributions to their Prime League footballers.
A CPF Board spokesman told The Straits Times last night: "The CPF Board takes a serious view of employers who do not fulfil their CPF obligations to their employees.
"Investigations are ongoing and CPF Board will not hesitate to take action against any football club that failed to make the requisite CPF contributions for their players."
ST understands that at least one club had failed to pay the contributions for up to five years. The Prime League team is the reserve side of each professional S-League club, largely featuring young players below 21. There are six local S-League clubs, excluding the Young Lions.
One general manager of an S-League club, who declined to be named, explained that Prime League players are employed on contracts which pay them a maximum of $300 in training allowances which help to cover meal and transport costs. "The club was notified by the CPF Board in November and we duly paid up the shortfall in CPF contribution the following month."
He added: "The club pays a training allowance of $100 to $200 to its Prime League players, but we were unaware that we had to declare this to the CPF Board. However, the club respects the wishes of the board and we will follow their policy from now on."
He declined to reveal the amount that was due, but said that the club had made full restitution.
Another club manager said: "The rule has not been clear, and we had hoped there would be some direction."
An S-League spokesman said: "The S-League understands that the clubs had in the past been under the perception that the 'allowance' paid to the Prime League players did not necessitate CPF contribution.
"The respective clubs concerned are in the process of resolving the matter with the CPF Board. We are confident that the clubs will be able to quickly and fairly resolve this matter. The S-League shall provide the relevant assistance to the clubs where possible."
This is not the first time S-League clubs have been in the spotlight over employment issues.
Some local clubs are known to offer 11-month contracts instead of a full-year deal to players to avoid paying the 13th-month bonus.
In 2014, the S-League implemented a controversial age-restriction rule that capped the number of Singaporean players aged 30 and above to five for each local club. The policy was rescinded after anti-discrimination watchdog Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices said that the rule was discriminatory.