FAS moves to fix governance practices
Measures taken to decentralise key decision-making powers from individuals, and towards council
Just over a month after taking office, the new Football Association of Singapore (FAS) council has moved to implement changes to governance practices in the national football body.
In a media release sent yesterday, the FAS announced a slew of measures it feels will "enhance the governance of FAS and the wider ecosystem in football".
This, after an ad hoc committee led by FAS vice-president Bernard Tan looked into the association's internal governance matters following the FAS election on April 29.
The committee made recommendations to the FAS executive committee to do further work in three areas - widening the disclosure requirements of individuals within the FAS, calling for an external audit to assess FAS' adherence to the revised Code of Governance for Charities, and working on a set of member obligations to ensure good governance in its affiliates.
Many of the measures shift power away from two individuals - the FAS president and general secretary - and towards the 15-strong council.
These include changes to the threshold for approval for expenditure and payments of key appointment holders, processes before entering into long-term contracts and commitments, senior appointments within the FAS, and approval on voting positions of the FAS.
Said Tan: "Many of the decisions in the old FAS council were very much centralised with individuals - whether it is the general secretary or the president.
"In terms of governance, the council sometimes did not have oversight over many of the decisions taken by the FAS.
"So we are going to ask the audit firm to advise what are the best practices that will allow us to have checks and balances."
Some of the measures were a direct move to prevent a repeat of incidents that have attracted negative headlines in recent years.
The move to reduce the threshold for approval for expenditure and payments of the general secretary, for example, would prevent a repeat of "Donategate".
During the lead-up to the April election, it was discovered that $500,000 was transferred to the Asean Football Federation from local amateur club Tiong Bahru FC, through FAS, but apparently without the knowledge of the council.
This eventually led to a police raid of the clubhouses of three football clubs - Tiong Bahru, Woodlands Wellington and Hougang United - along with FAS' Jalan Besar headquarters, and the subsequent and ongoing investigation.
Tan, along with new president Lim Kia Tong and fellow vice-presidents Edwin Tong and S. Thavaneson who sat on the former council, have firmly denied any knowledge of the donation.
The move to determine FAS' voting positions ahead of national or international forums - such as those organised by Asian governing body the AFC or world governing body Fifa - appears designed to avoid a repeat of an embarrassing incident last year.
Former FAS president Zainudin Nordin was the only person from the AFC's 44 member associations to vote in favour of an election for three spots on Fifa's new governing council to proceed.
The other 42 members (with one abstention) did not want the election to take place after a Qatari candidate was disqualified.
Tan stressed that the changes are in no way a reflection of the job done by general secretary Winston Lee, who is out on bail after assisting in police investigations.
Said Tan: "Even if the general secretary had done exceptionally well, we would do this.
"Because... in the Code of Governance for Charities, the board must exercise governance responsibility over the organisation.
"If it is only the president and general secretary, then what is the point of the (council)?"
Fraternity welcomes new council's measures
Members of the local football fraternity welcomed the steps taken by the new Football Association of Singapore (FAS) council to enhance governance within the national football body and local football scene, which were announced yesterday.
Just over a month after taking office, the new council unveiled a slew of measures.
The recommendations were made by an ad hoc committee led by FAS vice-president Bernard Tan, that looked into the national football body's internal governance matters following the April 29 election.
John Yap, chairman of Gombak United, who are currently sitting out the S.League, said: "Transparency on how the organisation is run and proper governance is definitely welcomed, and it lends confidence going forward.
"It is a move in the right direction and it puts to rest the fears and concerns of the public."
Added Paul Poh, general manager of S.League side Warriors FC: "The external audit is the best measure put in place.
"It is best to be open and transparent, but there needs to be more to it...
"(The measures) should not stop there."
However, Yap and Poh added that, outside of governance guidelines, there are other pressing issues the FAS has to deal with.
Yap said the FAS council should look into implementing a promotion and relegation system in the S.League, to inject more "competition and vibrancy" into the local game.
Poh, meanwhile, said that there are still day-to-day challenges facing clubs that hinder the progress of local football.
"We need to work on field usage," said the 52-year-old, whose side play their home matches at the Choa Chu Kang Stadium.
"I hardly see my players because they train all over the place... There are many disruptions."
- SAZALI ABDUL AZIZ