Singapore football club Warriors fined $26k for failing to pay player salaries, other offences

Warriors FC players during a training session at Jurong Stadium in January 2020. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Warriors FC, previously known as Singapore Armed Forces Football Club and nine-time winners of the S-League, were fined $26,000 on Tuesday (Jan 11) after they pleaded guilty to 134 charges, with three other charges granted a discharge amounting to an acquittal.

The majority of the charges they faced –  133 out of 137 – were related to non-payment of their employees’ salaries from July 2019 to December 2019 and came under the Employment Act.

Four other charges were related to an incident in March 2016 where the club failed to inform the Police Licensing & Regulatory Department of their hiring of four security officers to conduct security bag checks at an S-League game. These came under the Public Security Industry Act (PSIA).

The Warriors were fined a total of $21,000 for six Employment Act charges, and $5,000 for one that came under the PSIA, while the rest were taken into consideration.

The club, who have been hamstrung by financial woes that resulted in them sitting out the 2020 and 2021 seasons of the Singapore Premier League (SPL), are allowed to pay the fine in instalments over 15 months, which will end in May 2023.

In their mitigation plea, their lawyer Azri Imran Tan of I.R.B Law said the club would not make "excuses for its conduct, especially in relation to the (employment act) charges" and "accepts responsibility wholeheartedly".

The club did their best to rectify the issue, he added, including making full restitution to the staff involved, with the last instalment of monies due to affected employees paid out in July last year.

In total, including charges taken into consideration, the club did not pay almost $350,000 in salaries to 35 employees.

Warriors remain in debt, with almost $560,000 owed to the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore and Central Provident Fund (CPF). However, payment plans "which are both serviceable and manageable" are in place with both authorities.

Tan added that the current Warriors management intend to ride out this storm, address all problems and deficiencies and noted: "The long term goal will be for the club to be able to return to competing in Singapore football competitions, on sustainable financial footing."

Originally under the purview of the Ministry of Defence (Mindef), Warriors are the most successful club here of the professional era which began in 1996 although their last title triumph was in 2014.

The name change to Warriors in 2013 preceded Mindef ceding control of the club in January 2017, reportedly to allow an unnamed incoming private sponsor more say in the running of the club.

The Straits Times reported in October 2018 that the club struggled to pay their staff on time, leading to the Ministry of Manpower barring the club from foreign hires.

In July 2019, with the late salary payouts continuing, the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) said it was "gravely concerned" with how financial subsidies provided to the club had been administered.

It also revealed it had been making payments of the club employees' monthly CPF contributions directly to the CPF Board since March 2019.

The financial instability at the club led to the FAS ordering the club to sit out the following season of the SPL.Warriors formally submitted a request to return to the league for the 2021 season, highlighting they had restructured its debts, but were unsuccessful in their efforts.

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