National Stadium must be Lions' den
FAS and Sports Hub have to thrash out a battleplan for the national team to feature regularly at the National Stadium
When you talk to Manu Sawhney about the Singapore Rugby Sevens Series, his face lights up and he is effusive, chatting away about the success of the event in April and how the wheels have long been spinning as they prepare for next year's tournament.
When it comes to football, and the Lions' specifically, the chief executive officer of the Singapore Sports Hub turns sombre, guarded even, as he chooses his words carefully.
I am sure it's not because he prefers rugby over football.
I believe, like everyone else, he knows the Singapore football team should be featuring more at the National Stadium.
It's been more than two years since the cavernous arena opened its doors and the national team have starred in the facility on just eight occasions till now.
That is a startlingly low number.
The staple diet of the National Stadium must be football and it has to be the home of the Lions.
It is time the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) and the Sports Hub come to an agreement for the Lions to play regularly at the National Stadium from 2017.
I know the FAS struggles with the cost of hiring the facility for matches, but the stakeholders must work out a solution because the country's fans deserve to cheer on their favourites at the sparkling venue.
Cost is almost certainly why it finds the Jalan Besar Stadium a more prudent location. It is why Bishan Stadium will host the Lions' friendly against Cambodia tonight.
Such venues are too small and not worthy of the country's national team.
I spoke to Sawhney on Wednesday and he expressed admiration over how engaged the Singapore Rugby Union (SRU) is for the Sevens Series.
Obviously, with the series fixed each year for April, it is much easier to work out a battleplan to give the event every chance of success.
But the FAS also has a partner in MP & Silva, the Italian-based international sports media rights company.
In February 2015, it inked a $25 million, six-year deal to cover the global media rights of the FAS' national and age-group teams, sponsorship rights and international events for the Lions and national age-group squads.
MP & Silva has expertise in this and has to come up with a marketing and sponsorship plan with the Sports Hub that will help ease the cost of hiring the National Stadium.
They need to work together to convince enough fans to even turn up for a friendly clash with Cambodia there.
Nearly 25,000 fans turned up for the recent Causeway Challenge at the National Stadium.
The Republic hosted the 2014 Suzuki Cup and the Lions drew more than 32,000 fans for their opener against Thailand, over 24,000 for the second group game with Myanmar and a crowd of 48,000 turned up for the crunch tie with Malaysia.
It is an age old argument worth repeating - that football is the only sport in the country that can attract such figures, young and old, of every hue and creed, men and women.
Sawhney and his team must also realise the standing of the sport in the country, and how the old National Stadium turned into a football cathedral for Singapore football fans, who were roused by the thousands whenever the Lions played.
The argument that the new National Stadium is now a world-class facility and there is a cost to hiring it is a sound one, but all parties must work together for the good of the national game.
Already, the national players say the National Stadium seems alien to them, whenever they have the rare opportunity to play there. It cannot be right.
There may be a healthy dose of concerts, cricket matches, rugby games and track and field events at the National Stadium over the next few years, along with a handful of glamour football matches involving the likes of Manchester United, Liverpool and Real Madrid.
But if the Lions continue to miss out, then many here will consider the venue a white elephant.
A magnificent National Stadium has been built.
With a proper plan, thousands will come and cheer on the national team.
With Asian Cup qualifiers to be scheduled, let's start with at least five internationals for the Lions at the National Stadium in 2017.