Game Changers: This is ‘wake up’ time for Singapore football

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TIME to wake up, Singapore football. The prolonged years of neglect in the “bola” stop must stop and the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) deserves a very good kick in the butt.

Unveiling their major plans to save the languishing sport, Team “Game Changers” announced major plans on Thursday, with slightly more than two weeks to go before the elections for office bearers to the FAS elections on April 29.

Hitting the nail on the head and acknowledging that the long overdue changes cannot happen overnight, Deputy Presidential candidiate Lau Kok Keng, asserted that his team should be given a chance to carry their plans through to fruition.

“Singapore football is in a sad state of affairs because of a lack of strong leadership,” said the former Geylang International Vice-Chairman, who is a partner with law firm Rajah & Tann.

“We have no track record  (of any of us being previously involved in FAS) but that is not a bad thing. Each of us have been involved in sports administration and management and in a very significant way too.

“The change that Singapore football needs is not just about leadership style, but about substance (too); you have a much better chance of seeing real and substantial change with a new team in charge.”

SEVEN KEY AREAS

“Game Changers” revealed seven key areas for development and implementation to aid the development of Singapore football when it revealed its manifesto to the media and invited guests at the Fullerton Bay Hotel.

Spearheaded by by entrepreneur-minded Hougang United Chairman Bill Ng, and flanked by members of his slate, the seven key strategic areas identified were:

  • Administration
  • Technical
  • Facilities
  • Talent Scouting
  • Commercial Activities
  • Player Care
  • Competitions

“These seven areas are fundamental elements which are extremely pivotal to achieving success in the modern game of football. It is imperative that we get down to the basics, and start redrawing our strategies to ensure that football in Singapore becomes future-ready, is able to develop at all levels, and which will ultimately bring Singaporeans from all walk of lives together again,” said Bill Ng.

“Football is a sport which can rally communities, and it is vital that we pool together to bring the roar back to Singapore football.”

In the realm of competitions, “Game Changers” revealed how it will force a complete rethink of the S-League and how a 12-14 team structure would be a goal to aim for in the future.

Self-sustainability will also critical and a fresh commercial approach would be required to finance the S.League clubs, and other aspects of Singapore football.

The team also shared ideas of how access funds saved from S-League subsidies would be ploughed back to support National Football League (NFL) clubs with the aim of helping them prepare for promotion to the S.League.

Muhammad Zaki Ma’arof, the President of NFL Division Two club Kaki Bukit Sports Club, who is a candidate for Vice-President in “Game Changers” said: “The NFL is the cornerstone of grassroots football development in Singapore. For far too long, the NFL and the Islandwide League have been neglected.

UPSKILL CAPABILITIES

“Now with representation in the FAS Council, the NFL and grassroots clubs will have a direct link to the management team, and we will be able to help with problem solving as soon as possible.

“What’s more important is that we are able to help the NFL teams to upskill their capabilities and we will help them grow so that they will be ready for promotion to the S-League.”

“Game Changers” also shared how they intend to grow women’s football, with key emphasis being placed on creating more opportunities for women and girls to play football.

Annabel Pennefather, the first local female Chef de Mission (CDM) for an Olympic Games in 2004, said: “Women’s football in Singapore needs a lot more support. Our aim is to provide more opportunities for women and girls to play football and have the benefit of talent identification and tracking programmes.

“There must be allocation of realistic budgets to develop all aspects of women’s football including training and mentoring of more women coaches, referees, technical officials and administrators and other initiatives highlighted in our team’s  manifesto.”

She is currently a Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) Vice President, also a member of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Ethics Commission and deputy president of the International Hockey Federation’s Judicial Commission.

WOMEN’S COMPETITION

Pennefather, the former national hockey player who became the Singapore Hockey Federation’s first female president in 2004, also pledged to host regular women’s competitions in Singapore to help develop the talent base and subsequently, more opportunities for success in women’s football.

Pennefather, along with Dr Teoh Chin Sim are the two dynamic women in the slate of nine in “Game Changers”.

Commercialisation and marketing of football were also marked as areas which needed a lot of attention. This essentially meant having to open up more channels for revenue generation for the clubs and for the football eco-system as a whole.

Bill Ng, who is also Chairman of S-League Hougang United, said: “We need to open up more channels for revenue generation. But critically, we need to build football’s brand equity as our first priority.

“With a strong brand equity, there will be stronger levels of support from sponsors, and with stronger sponsorships, clubs will be able to get players and strong support systems. With better players, we will get fans turning up.”

Describing the “Game Changers” as a “passionate group of individuals who have been brought together for a common good”, he added: “Football is in our blood, and we are passionately driven to take Singapore football forward to the next level, to bring back the roar to the National Stadium, to the neigbourhood stadiums.

“We want to see more Singaporeans playing football and it should be our common objective to make football the number one sport in Singapore.”

Showing absolute unity, the nine-member slate took turns to speak about proposals regarding administration, technical aspects, facilities, talent scouting, commercial activities, players’ medical care and competitions.

In a nutshell, it was plain to see that Singapore football needs a major overhaul and  he prolonged years of neglect in the “bola” stop must stop.

Yes, time for the FAS to get a very good kick in the butt.

KEY POINTS TO MANIFESTO:

Administration

* Review all current roles and expenditure in FAS, appoint people with the right skills to the right roles

* To be as lean and as efficient as possible

* Complete transparency in the allocation of funds

Technical

* Technical staff at all levels to have access to world-class resurces, and be funded for coaching developmental programmes

* Develop pool of professional referees

Competitions

* S-League: Aim for a 12-14 team league with clubs to be financially self-sustaining

* Fresh commercial approach to finance clubs and attract sponsors, Coaches and player salaries to be gradually raised

* Definitely draw back fans through rebranding and marketing

NFL: Raise status by having NFL representation on FAS NFL Committee and NFL personnel to participate in FIFA/AFC/IOC courses

* Prepare top clubs for promotion to S.League with funds saved from S.League subsidies. Increase prize money for clubs

* Re-introduce Singapore Business Houses League to get companies involved in football

Women’s football: Generate more interest in women’s game in ITEs, Polys and other institutions. Encourage Ministry of Education to start more CCA clubs for women’s football

* Help clubs set up women’s division and train more women coaches, referees, referee assessors and match inspectors

* Host more international tournaments and win SEA Games medal in near future

Player Care

* New decentralised medical infrastructure to ensure players receive greater depth of care in shortest time. Insurance coverage for all footballers

* FAS-sponsored internal and external courses to help prepare players for post-football careers

Talent scouting

* Expand scouting network and establish National Training Centre for all age-groups and sexes

* Review of current youth development system

Commercial

* FAS to actively secure commercial partnerships with clubs to ensure sustainability

* Establish department to advise clubs on business, commercial and financial issues