New-look Singapore football league will be known on Sept 30
Mark the date: Wednesday, September 30.
That is the deadline the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) has set for itself to make public the fate of the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League - and the landscape for the Republic's No. 1 sport.
The FAS council was due to sit yesterday, but sources revealed that a lack of a quorum saw the meeting cancelled, but a smaller group led by president Zainudin Nordin did convene, discussing the future of the league.
"Today's meeting was strictly about the S.League and one of the key things we discussed was the timeline, and how we can get everything in place and move forward comfortably," Zainudin told The New Paper.
"And we are aiming to solve everything before the (FAS) Annual General Meeting (AGM) on Sept 30, but we will engage all clubs and stakeholders soon, hopefully by mid-September."
A fog has descended over the football fraternity here, with several facets of the Singapore football world poised for change.
The proposed Asean Super League has yet to receive Fifa ratification, the LionsXII's continued participation in the Malaysian Super League remains as yet unconfirmed despite the agreement ending at the end of this year and all the while there has been increasingly loud chatter of the 20-year-old S.League turning semi-professional in 2016.
To further exacerbate the situation, the league's five-year cycle of funding from major sponsors, the Singapore Tote Board, comes to an end this year as well.
That funding has been the main source of clubs' operating budget, with each receiving up to $1 million in annual subsidies.
Touching on the subject, Zainudin said: "This year is the end of the five-year funding cycle and I can't say if (funding for the next cycle) has been sorted. We will do the necessary, but I can't reveal what goes on in the meetings."
The football chief revealed that one of the major decisions that must be made is the shape and form of the S.League next year.
"A professional league is important to us, but what we are working towards is the form that the league will take," he said, in response to rumblings of a semi-professional set-up next year.
Whether that means the league will have a core group of professionals supported by a cast of part-timers, or a retention of the current wage structure, remains to be seen.
Change appears to be the only certainty, as the S.League looks for a new equilibrium in the face of diminishing popularity in a crowded football landscape.
In November last year, after the end of the 2014 league season, it was revealed that two clubs - Woodlands Wellington and Tanjong Pagar - would sit out in a reduced roster of 10 teams for the 2015 campaign.
It also implemented a controversial age-restriction on players over 30 that was quickly rescinded.
The local fraternity was up in arms over the late announcement of changes last year.
"I don't think that situation will happen again this time," said Zainudin.
With the FAS executive committee and Zainudin's presidency also up for renewal, Sept 30 could well be a watershed day for Singapore football.
"We are aware of the timeline we need to keep to and we will do all we can," he added.