Football fraternity concerned over S.League's new age restrictions
When S.League chief executive Lim Chin revealed new age restrictions for the upcoming 2015 season, the general reaction in the local football fraternity was that of surprise and shock.
The new measures, reported by The New Paper yesterday, will limit S.League clubs to only five players over the age of 30 in a 22-man squad, while three players will have to be aged 25 or under.
If clubs register only 20 players, then only four are allowed to be over 30, while two must be under 25.
The move, which is only applicable to local players, was made in a bid to encourage clubs to blood younger footballers.
Alex Weaver, coach of Warriors FC, the newly crowned Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League champions, was caught off guard by the new rules.
"It's taken me by surprise, to be honest," said the Englishman yesterday.
"I saw it in the papers and it's a little bit disappointing that we only found out about this through the media."
While clubs now face a frantic off-season to reorganise their squads in light of the announcement, the biggest concern lies with the players.
"The older players like Hasan Sunny, Shi Jiayi and Indra Sahdan and the rest, they've played for Singapore and have played at the highest level for years, and they can still play for a few more years," said Weaver.
"And now some of them are going to have to make way, so that's a concern for my team."
The 37-year-old also felt that the new measures came too suddenly.
"What I would have liked to see happen was for it to be announced now, but implemented only in 2016, not next season.
"I think that the S.League should have helped us along the way."
The biggest change for the 2015 Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League season will be the reduction in the number of teams from 12 to 10.
Tanjong Pagar will sit out next year, while Woodlands Wellington will merge with Hougang United.
The new passing mark for the 2.4km fitness test has also gone from 10 minutes to 9min 45sec.
But the age restrictions worry former Hougang United coach Johana Johari.
He believes the S.League needs to improve the whole youth development structure before any tangible results can be seen on the big stage.
"What they're doing here, it's not a bad move, but it's not ideal due to the small talent pool that we have. It's too drastic," he said.
"We need to invest more effort into the Prime League, and make it a good, nurturing and competitive arena for younger players to develop.
"Only then will they have what it takes to play in the S.League. If they do that, then the standard of the S.League will improve.
"We now have only three Centres of Excellence operated by the Warriors, Home United and Balestier Khalsa, so something needs to be done about that first."
However, newly-retired striker Aleksandar Duric feels that the measures do have their merits in the long run, although he is concerned for players on the wrong side of 30.
"It's time to improve the league. It's good for the younger guys, in one way they'll be able to have more opportunities to grow as footballers," said the 44-year-old.
"For both the younger and older players, they'll realise that they'll have to work harder, and competition will be tough.
"It's good because I feel that some players really need to wake up and start performing."
"But it's hard for the older guys. Some will find it hard, and some will be let go, so that's a worry," he added.
"But let's support the S.League. If it will help the clubs and bring more fans into stadiums, then that's good."
"What I would have liked to see happen was for it to be announced now, but implemented only in 2016, not next season."
— Warriors FC coach Alex Weaver on the plan to limit players aged over 30 in the S.League
"What they’re doing here, it’s not a bad move, but it’s not ideal due to the small talent pool that we have. It’s too drastic."
— Former Hougang United coach Johana Johari on the age restrictions
"For both the younger and older players, they’ll realise that they’ll have to work harder, and competition will be tough."
— Aleksandar Duric, supporting the age limitations