FAS provisional council president promises clean election race
FAS provisional council president Lim rubbishes allegations of vote-buying
Yesterday afternoon, the football grapevine was abuzz with chatter about a move by Lim Kia Tong and his team offering sponsorships to amateur clubs in the National Football League (NFL).
The unwritten expectation for those who accept was, of course, support when the 44 affiliates of the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) go to the polls on April 29.
Speaking to a crowd of 33 - with 19 affiliates represented, including some from outside the NFL - Lim rubbished such talk.
"I have heard that there are rumours we are giving out sponsorship in exchange for votes. I would like to say that there is no truth to that at all," said the 64-year-old lawyer, who will lead a team to contest the FAS election.
"I would like to remind you: please don't accept anything from us - firstly because we won't give you anything, secondly because we can't, it will contravene the Fifa code of ethics," added Lim, who is also deputy chairman of the Fifa disciplinary committee.
ST Engineering chief marketing officer Bernard Tan, who is set to run as Lim's No. 2 at the election, said that it will be a sad day for Singapore football if something like that happens.
He said: "Corruption has seeped into football, even at the Fifa level. And if that ever happens in Singapore, it would be very sad. I urge you, if anybody does anything remotely wrong, lodge a complaint (to the authorities).
"Integrity is key for us."
Lim and Tan were joined by running mates, former Tampines Rovers chairman Teo Hock Seng and Balestier Khalsa chairman S Thavaneson at a meeting where Lim gave the assurance that grassroots football will get more attention.
"Our policy was previously geared only towards elite football, but that will change," said Lim, who had to field questions in what was a robust discussion even involving contrary views from his leadership group.
NFL officials raised a slew of issues, from the youth development system that has seen amateur clubs lose young footballers to the FAS' National Football Academy, to coaches' education that is vital to club growth, to rules that govern player registration in the league.
The issue of NFL clubs making the step up to the professional S.League was also raised.
"Clubs want to build. I know, I understand, I ran a club for 15 years," said Teo.
"I've had my (young) players taken away by the NFA too.
"We are talking about club pride here, and everybody here has pride in the club they represent... and we should provide the opportunity for clubs to do so," he added, to applause from the crowd.
There was also an acknowledgement that NFL clubs must step up their game. Eunos Crescent team manager Darwin Jalil pointed out administration and players' fitness levels as factors that can be improved.
He said: "A lot of changes (mooted) can be positive, but we also need the clubs to change their mindset. We can't keep doing things how they were being done before.
"But it has to start with putting our hearts together."