New Sports Hub tender is part of 'normal process', says SportSG

Aerial view of the Singapore Sports Hub.
Aerial view of the Singapore Sports Hub. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG, JAMIE KOH

Sport Singapore (SportSG) last Thursday opened up a tender for firms to provide operational advisory services related to the Sports Hub project.

The scope of services for the appointed consultant will cover the analysis of financial operations including reviewing monthly reports, third-party revenue, commercial estate management as well as a review of performance indicators.

The call for a tender comes as the previous contract with PricewaterhouseCoopers ends in two months.

In response to queries from The Straits Times, SportSG's deputy director of public relations S. Parameswaran yesterday said: "This is a normal process of procurement as the current consultant's contract is expiring in May 2016."

The $1.33 billion Sports Hub, which opened in June 2014, is run by the SportsHub Private Limited (SHPL) consortium. The project is a 25-year public-private partnership between SHPL and the Singapore Government.

SHPL's chief executive Manu Sawhney did not directly address queries from ST regarding SportSG's tender call and would say only that SHPL and SportSG are parties to a long-term contract for the Singapore Sports Hub's operation.

He added: "We look forward to continuing to work together to fulfil all the terms and obligations of our agreement to ensure the vibrancy and success of the Singapore Sports Hub."

The timing of the SportSG tender however, has raised some eyebrows within the sports business industry, with several officials wondering if the audit is linked to recent developments at the Sports Hub.

Signs of issues within SHPL, which comprises InfraRed Capital Partners (majority equity partner), Dragages Singapore, DTZ Facilities and Engineering and Global Spectrum Pico (GSP), have recently surfaced.

In December, members of GSP's senior management were asked to step down. Last month, ST reported that SHPL intended to terminate the venue operation contract (VOC) with GSP, whose role is to secure both sporting and non-sporting content at the Sports Hub.

A meeting in the United States on Feb 19 between InfraRed and GSP was followed by a joint statement issued two days later, denying that termination of the VOC was ever discussed.

The lack of big-name sporting events at the National Stadium has also contributed to the venue's reputation that it is overpriced and difficult to deal with because of a problematic pitch.

In January, ST reported that SHPL had been locked in talks for almost six months with organisers of last July's Youth Celebrate! event.

The festival, jointly organised by the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, had damaged the National Stadium pitch, SHPL had claimed.

It had requested that organisers cover two-thirds of the cost of fixing patches and other issues on the "lay-and-play" pitch - just over $900,000 before goods and services tax - but eventually decided not to impose any charges.

However, it would be too speculative to link the news of the tender to recent issues, noted Chiew Yu Sarn, founding partner and head of the corporate and commercial department for law firm Yusarn Audrey.

He added: "The tender may not be about an audit at all. Certainly the tender description seems quite broad and does not necessarily imply that an audit is going on.

"For example, it could be the professionals are being asked to assist in improving the reporting and management of Sports Hub."

  • Additional reporting by Lim Yi Han
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 08, 2016, with the headline 'New Sports Hub tender is part of 'normal process', says SportSG'. Print Edition | Subscribe