Singapore's top women's football club are threatening to pull out of the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) Women's Premier League.
Defending champions and league leaders Warriors FC are unhappy with proposed changes to the competition which had been mooted in July - two months after the five-team competition began.
Last December, the FAS revamped the competition to divide it into two tiers - the top-flight, five-team Women's Premier League (WPL) and the nine-team Women's National League (WNL). The system included promotion for the top WNL club and relegation for the bottom WPL club.
There would also be a play-off involving the second-last WPL team and the WNL runners-up, with the winner playing in the top tier next season.
But word surfaced in July that the FAS was looking at promoting a club without relegating another in order to increase the number of teams playing in the top division to six - the original number of teams that were supposed to play in the WPL this year before one team, Middle Rangers, shut down.
The suggested changes would take place this season, not the next.
This would result in Tanjong Pagar United remaining in the top tier should they remain rooted to the bottom of the WPL.
MOVING THE GOALPOSTS
It is wrong and unprofessional and you cannot come up with this idea halfway through the season. We told them that we're prepared to pull out.
PAUL POH, Warriors general manager, on the WPL defending champions' planned absence next season if the competition rules set for this campaign last December are not followed.
But the idea raised the ire of the Warriors, who queried the move in an e-mail to the FAS in July.
Noting that they had yet to receive a conclusive response, Warriors general manager Paul Poh told The Straits Times (ST) yesterday: "It doesn't concern us because we're not in the relegation battle, and I'm not worried about whether the outcome will affect us. But it is wrong and unprofessional and you cannot come up with this idea halfway through the season.
"We told them that we're prepared to pull out. We can join a private league or create our own league. There are many teams out there who are not playing in the FAS women's leagues."
It is understood that the rules for promotion and relegation will be adhered to so Tanjong Pagar, who drew 1-1 with Arion last night at Serangoon Stadium, must win their final match in order to escape relegation. But it remains unclear if a play-off will still take place.
It is believed that two WNL teams will be promoted directly: Changi Village Sport and Recreation Club who became the champions of the WNL in May, and runners-up Home United.
Other clubs ST spoke to were also unclear about the situation as the season approaches its conclusion, with most teams having only one or two fixtures left.
Said Arion's player-coach Yeong Sheau Shyan, who is also the national women's Under-16 coach: "We still don't know if there will be a play-off, but we were already prepared to face the drop after the first few games because our defenders were mostly injured.
"It just means that we have to make sure that we are the strongest team (in the WNL) next season so that we fight back."
She also lamented the lack of teams in the top division this year. She said: "We face every team three times, and we are familiar with all the teams. The variety is lacking."
The Warriors, who are also last year's Women's Challenge Cup winners, are taking a wait-and-see approach in the meantime.
Poh said: "It depends on what FAS is going to do about the format. If it decides to change the format and if it puts (a relegated club) back into the top league (next season), then I'd say we're not going to join it."
The FAS was unable to reply by press time last night.