FAS saga: The $500,000 conundrum

Over the past few days, Singapore football has been rocked by news that some $500,000 has ended up in the coffers of the Asean Football Federation. Since then, claim and counter claim over who, what and why have emerged. The Straits Times’ Chua Siang Yee examines the issue

(From left) Tiong Bahru FC chairman Bill Ng, former FAS president Zainudin Nordin and FAS general secretary Winston Lee.
(From left) Tiong Bahru FC chairman Bill Ng, former FAS president Zainudin Nordin and FAS general secretary Winston Lee.PHOTOS: ST FILE

Q Who donated the money, and to whom?

A The $500,000 came from Tiong Bahru Football Club, in a donation made by its chairman Bill Ng.

The Football Association of Singapore (FAS) said that the money went to the Asean Football Federation (AFF) for its Football Management System.

In addition, the FAS said that it was former president Zainudin Nordin who requested the donation and Ng knew the money was intended for the AFF when he donated the $500,000.

However, this is disputed by Ng.

Q What is the Football Management System?

A In a statement, the FAS said it is an "online resource management portal" aimed at raising the capabilities and capacities of the AFF's member associations in areas such as sponsorship management, corporate governance and coach education.

The AFF also said that it expects to launch the system, which is expected to cost about $2 million, within the next nine to 12 months.


To reiterate, all discussions, and the 'Request for Donation' came from Winston Lee.

BILL NG, chairman of Tiong Bahru FC and Hougang United, and FAS presidential hopeful.


Regrettably, I believe Bill Ng's statement was intended to insinuate financial impropriety within FAS and to damage the credibility of FAS and myself... I call on Bill Ng to wholly and unconditionally apologise for his statements.

WINSTON LEE, FAS general secretary.


I already said I won't be commenting. I'm not running in the election.

ZAINUDIN NORDIN, former FAS president.

Q Is the donation unconstitutional?

A Tiong Bahru FC's constitution states that monies and profit accruing to the club can be applied "towards the furtherance, promotion and execution of the objects (sic) of the Club".

According to its constitution, Tiong Bahru's objectives include promoting and upgrading the standard of football towards professionalism as well as to cooperate with and give full support to the Singapore Sports Council (now called Sport Singapore) and the Football Association of Singapore.

If the donation is indeed intended for the AFF's Football Management System, which according to the AFF would help its members, then the donation can be said to not be in breach of Tiong Bahru's constitution.

Q What is the problem?

A The football community is riled that $500,000 was given to the AFF, a foreign entity. After all, this amount is double what the FAS spent on grassroots football in the last financial year.

The saga has also erupted just two weeks before the April 29 FAS election, where the 23 NFL clubs - who have been vocal about their struggle for support - hold a majority of the 44 votes at stake .

Sport Singapore said last night it has requested the FAS to provide full details on the donations and it is looking into the matter.

Zainudin, meanwhile, has steadfastly refused to comment on the matter.

Q What are the parties saying?

A Ng's team have resolutely denied two claims.

On Monday, Game Changers issued a statement claiming that it was FAS general secretary Winston Lee, and not Zainudin, who had requested the $500,000 donation.

The statement also said: "When Bill Ng agreed to Winston's request for a donation, it was strictly on the basis that the money was to be used to benefit Singapore football, especially our local clubs."

Yesterday, the FAS produced a letter with the Tiong Bahru FC letterhead.

In the letter, signed by Ng and addressed to Zainudin, Ng wrote: "I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for sharing and giving us the opportunity to contribute to the Football Association of Singapore and Asean Football Federation through the proposed Football Management System... I am happy to inform you that we will contribute S$500,000 to Asean Football Federation through FAS to develop this Football Management System."

Lee has called on Ng to "wholly and unconditionally apologise for his statements".

Ng's subsequent reply contradicted his earlier claims that he did not know what the $500,000 was for.


His latest statement said: "It was Winston Lee who met me on multiple occasions in 2014 to seek the donations from Tiong Bahru FC for a Football Management System to be developed for the benefit of Singapore football and Asean football".

He also claimed that Lee prepared the letter, directed him to reproduce it with the Tiong Bahru FC letterhead and told him to address it to Zainudin.

However, Ng has not submitted any evidence to back his latest claims.

Pressed on why the presidential hopeful would sign off on such a letter, a spokesman for Ng said he had signed the letter as "his intent has always been to support FAS and football".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 19, 2017, with the headline 'The $500,000 conundrum'. Subscribe