Bill Ng enters FAS election fray
FAS provisional council president Lim will be challenged at the upcoming election
There will be a contest for the leadership of the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) when the sport's local governing body calls for its first election this week.
Hougang United chairman Bill Ng has confirmed that he is putting together a team to challenge FAS provisional council president Lim Kia Tong, with Tampines Rovers chairman Krishna Ramachandra fighting in Ng's corner.
It is a stunning turnaround, as Ng and Krishna had publicly disagreed over how S.League clubs should be funded.
Ng's Hougang have generated healthy profits from a successful jackpot operation, but Tampines chief Krishna rejected the model, saying that it was not right to fund clubs using such a model as it is people's hard-earned money.
Responding to queries from The New Paper, a spokesman from Ng's camp said: "Yes, we have a team of very qualified candidates ready and willing to take on the challenge.
"We actually have more qualified people coming forward to join us than the slate of nine requires, so we are in a very comfortable position.
"Our candidates and supporters are together as one because we have built up mutual trust.
"Our main objective at this time is to demonstrate to the voters that we have a team that can deliver with accountability."
The FAS election will see teams put forward a slate of nine candidates - president, deputy president, four vice-presidents and three council members - with six other council member positions to be contested on an individual basis.
The spokesman added: "A team line-up need not be announced prematurely for many reasons.
"But we have been announcing to key stakeholders and engaging many of them to explain our approach and what difference we can bring to Singapore football if we are voted in.
"Yes, sources will reveal some names of our candidates, but the final word must come from Bill Ng himself at the right time when he announces the full slate of team members."
Ng made a name for himself in the football fraternity by turning around debt-ridden clubs, with his most notable success coming at Hougang.
On the back of profitable jackpot operations, the Cheetahs are the only S.League club that can operate without the $800,000 annual subsidy from the Tote Board.
In 2014, the club registered a profit in excess of $2 million, and they have gone further, setting up a $1 million scholarship fund for young footballers.
They have also made donations to the late S Anthonysamy, a footballer who was paralysed from the neck down after an on-pitch freak accident in 1996, and the late Zhu Xiaoping, a national gymnastics coach who was stricken by cancer.
Ng has invested in facilities at the club's Hougang Stadium headquarters, installing plush pitch-side benches and refurbishing their dressing rooms.
While Tampines are opposed to relying on jackpot operations to fund their football activities, Krishna has long iterated the need for a sustainable commercial model for clubs.
This is probably where he and Ng have found a common ground.
Krishna told The New Paper yesterday: "Yes, I have been in dialogue with Bill's team. They have presented a more than credible leadership team that have a healthy mix of relevant football experience, necessary sports industry expertise and knowhow.
"Most importantly, all of them have the desired passion and drive to make Singapore football thrive again."
Ng has yet to reveal his team's manifesto, but it could well be centred on a more structured S.League with clubs that are self-sustaining, a platform that could see a move towards higher professionalism in the club scene and have a knock-on effect on the national team.
Krishna's backing of Ng comes in the wake of a surprise move by R Vengadasalam - the most vocal critic of the establishment - to back Lim's run for the FAS presidency.
Venga told TNP in an earlier interview that he was convinced by Lim's sincerity and willingness to make changes that matter.
Former Singapore international R Sasikumar was poised to join Venga in Lim's corner, but sources now reveal that following a meeting with Lim last weekend, Sasi has ruled himself out of the election.
As FAS' provisional council president, Lim has announced several moves.
These include giving two-year extensions to key FAS technical staff - national coach V Sundramoorthy and technical director Michel Sablon.
A title sponsor of the FAS' amateur league competition, the National Football League, is expected to be announced before the call for election comes.