New FAS leadership must make S.League work
Team that win FAS election have so much to do to lure fans out again
The top brass at the Football Association (FAS) were understandably happy when the new proposed constitution was passed unanimously by their affiliates at the extraordinary general meeting on Monday.
The proposed constitution will now have to be approved by bodies like the Registry of Societies and the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth and the cut-off date for the first-ever FAS election has been set as May 2017
I hope the process is hastened and an election date set soonest because there is serious work to do to haul the country's No. 1 sport out of its current malaise.
This is serious because Singapore football is struggling to capture the imagination of fans and this has to be addressed.
Over the last couple of months, various names have been bandied about as likely leaders of teams that will bid to form the next FAS Council.
On Tuesday, Teo Hock Seng, a long-time football administrator and the popular former chairman of S.League giants Tampines Rovers, told The New Paper he was willing to help if called.
FAS vice-president Lim Kia Tong, a lawyer, is seriously considering a run, probably to succeed current chief Zainudin Nordin.
Over the long-term, the team that win the election will have to improve the standard of play at all levels and grow the pool of quality coaches.
In the short-term, the S.League must be hauled to the next level.
When the LionsXII were disbanded last December after being omitted from the Malaysian Super League, the bulk of the players returned to the S.League.
Balestier Khalsa chairman S Thavaneson said recently the standard of the S.League improved after the players returned to the local club competition.
That is arguable, especially when Singapore's best two footballers, Hariss Harun and Safuwan Baharudin, were lured to Malaysia.
And after the Jermaine Pennant effect died off after the first quarter of the season, fans began to lose interest in the S.League and whole swathes of the various football arenas returned to near-emptiness.
Players here lack professionalism.
Many who play in the S.League haven't even mustered the basics.
They are chronically short of fitness.
Singapore fans often hear this through the grapevine.
When they do decide to catch a game, they see professionals who struggle to control a ball and make a simple pass and lose faith.
While it requires a major funding boost and a far stricter fitness requirement, I don't foresee a radical change to the S.League next season because the interim council will not want to tie the hands of the team that win the election next year.
Which means the team elected to form the next FAS Council have to perform major surgery and make the S.League hum.
The bulk of our national players ply their trade in the S.League, so perhaps it was no surprise when only a little over 10,000 fans turned up for the Lions' clash with Malaysia last month at the 55,000-seater National Stadium. It ended 0-0.
Singapore coach V Sundramoorthy has set his men a target of a semi-final spot in the Suzuki Cup.
The semi-finals of Asean football's most prestigious competition is a home-and-away tie and if they do make it out of a tough group, I am sure the Lions match at the National Stadium will see a bumper crowd hoping to will their team on for a spot in the final.
Semi-final shows usually attract crowds because of what's at stake and the goal has to be to consistently attract big crowds for any Singapore international.
Bill Ng, chairman of S.League side Hougang United, is apparently considering a bid in the FAS election.
Lawyer Alfred Dodwell and former Woodlands Wellington manager R Vengadasalam of Team Majulah, and former journalist Suresh Nair, have already stated their intention to do so.
Whichever team win, they will also have to convince the Government to give the green light for a National Training Centre.
They will have to decide whether to renew Sundramoorthy's contract.
They will have to negotiate a deal with the Sports Hub to fix an annual calendar of games for the Lions at the National Stadium.
They have to deliver.
So step forward only if you're serious about the job, and know the score. For the sake of the Singapore fan.