Big changes in store at Warriors FC
Warriors FC, S.League's most successful club, poised for significant metamorphosis
Alex Weaver led Warriors FC to their ninth Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League title last year, but left the club with five games still to go this season.
The Englishman's assistant, Kevin Wee, has also followed him out the door at Choa Chu Kang Stadium, and Moroccan Karim Bencherifa will officially be appointed head coach when his work permit arrives.
The New Paper understands that goalkeeper coach Narong Saiket and sports trainer Silas Abdul Karim will also leave at the end of the season, but all those moves only skim the surface, ahead of potentially major changes in the boardroom of the most successful club in the 20-year history of the S.League.
Borne from the Singapore Armed Forces Sports Association (SAFSA), the Warriors come under the direct purview of the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) but, with potential new sponsors looking for more say in the running of the club, it could pave the way for them to sever ties with their military roots, and embrace a distinctly different future.
"Indeed, we are now in the midst of discussing with some keen sponsors who want to come in with financial support and see whether they can get involved in the management of the club, and we're actually quite glad to have a partner who can inject new ideas in the management of the team," said club chairman Lam Shiu Tong, a retired army general who declined to reveal the identity of the sponsor.
"But it is premature to say whether Mindef will pull out or not. We have to get that straight: Mindef is still in talks about the club, nothing is firm yet."
Known as SAFFC before the name-change exercise in 2013, the Warriors remain the only Singapore side to have participated in the continent's top club competition, the AFC Champions League, in 2009 and 2010.
If new sponsors do sign on, Mindef could still retain some part in the running of the club.
Mindef did not respond to TNP queries and Lam, who is a senior director, event support, at DTZ - one of the consortium partners of the Singapore Sports Hub - was cryptic when questioned on his future at Warriors FC after this season.
"I've been around for four years and, whether I continue or not, we must hand over smoothly.
"Continuity is definitely important, and we will look into how we can do this as seamlessly as possible, even from one chairman to another, it's a key consideration, and we don't ever want any change to be abrupt," said Lam, who revealed that the move to find sponsors keen to work "intimately with the club" started some three years ago.
Paul Poh, involved in strategic planning and marketing at the Warriors, has been singled out by many in the fraternity as the broker of the possible deal with the new sponsors.
He told TNP that any change will be directed at convincing the community to get behind the club.
"We are talking to a few interesting sponsors - including a Singapore company - that has not been involved in football before but, because of league regulations, we are waiting till Nov 21 before making engagements," said Poh.
He revealed that the club will turn their focus to developing local players and fostering community bonds through youth football and usage of stadium facilities.
"There will be management changes too, to bring more people in, so the coaches can focus on football, while we do the administration.
"The sponsors aren't just looking at the football, they're keen on the community aspect too, and Sport Singapore is very supportive of what we want to do," he added.
"Warriors have a long history of excellence in the S.League, and it's time to make a change to bring the club to the next level."
The name change three years ago was done with the intention to make it easier to bring in sponsors who might want to put their (brand) name ahead of the team name. To find sponsors who are financially able and keen takes time, but now we have found some serious partners who are working intimately with us.
— Warriors FC chairman Lam Shiu Tong
When you speak to sponsors, they will usually say that the S.League is going down. But when you show them the potential of community engagement, things become interesting.
— Paul Poh, strategic planning and marketing, Warriors FC
Warriors and S.League, will be fine: Lim Chin
The 2015 Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League season is just 18 days away from coming to a close, and the blueprint of its future form and structure have yet to be revealed in detail by the Football Association of Singapore (FAS).
Warriors FC stand on the cusp of change, poised to sign new sponsors and possibly radically alter the way they function, but S.League chief executive Lim Chin is steadfast in his belief that both the club and the football fraternity will be fine come 2016.
"I understand that in the Warriors' situation, they are looking for more sponsors, and that is a good thing for Singapore football," Lim (right) told The New Paper.
"As far as I know, he (Lam Shiu Tong) is still the chairman of the club and will remain so. It is too premature to jump to any conclusions about the club."
The S.League has witnessed clubs that have stirred excitement at the start only to nosedive at the end due to unreliable financing.
The likes of Sporting Afrique and more recently Etoile FC have shut down after much hullabaloo, but Lim is confident that regulations in place will protect both clubs and the league.
"If any club bring any new person onto their management committee, we will be notified. Those are internal affairs of clubs, but the chairman and vice-chairman of any club will be appointed by the S.League," he said.
"The league will do its due diligence, but the clubs must first do it."
Despite two of the league's biggest clubs, Tampines Rovers and the Warriors, possibly facing significant management changes - long-serving Stags chairman Teo Hock Seng has resigned from his post - Lim remained upbeat.
This is despite the fact that the five-year funding cycle by the Singapore Tote Board, which forms a large part of clubs' operating budget, will come to an end next month, with a new agreement yet to be signed.
Each club operate with a sum of around $800,000 in annual subsidies handed out by the Tote Board.
"As far as we're concerned, we're planning for next season," declared Lim.
When asked if pen has been put to paper to secure funding for the S.League for 2016 and beyond, the former Warriors chairman said: "(The Tote Board) has always been supportive, and the paper is already on the table."