S.League club merger between Woodlands and Hougang falls through
Merger between Woodlands and Hougang 'not feasible'
It was a merger mooted by the S.League, then set in motion and announced by its administrators at the end of the 2014 season.
But last month, more than a year later, it came to light that the marriage between Woodlands Wellington and Hougang United did not actually take place - it could not, because, according to a group of Woodlands fans fighting to keep the club alive, the league's administrators failed to abide by the constitution that governs S.League clubs.
"We started asking questions based on a story written in your paper in November 2014, (and since then) we've had four meetings with the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) and two meetings with Sport Singapore (SportSG)," said James Lim, a Woodlands fan and a former deputy director at the People's Association.
"We said that they can't just go ahead with their plans without, as per the constitution, getting votes from 80 per cent of the voting members in the club to pass the resolution."
Clause 35 (a) of Woodlands' constitution states that the "club shall not be dissolved, except with the consent of not less than 80 per cent of the voting members of the club".
According to Woodlands' 2014 annual returns statement, the club has around 14,000 members.
Woodlands, one of the pioneers of the S.League - Singapore's professional football competition which kicked off in 1996 - finished 11th of 12 teams in 2014.
At the end of the season, the club had accumulated debts of around $400,000, which prompted the idea of a merger.
After the announcement of the merger, the Rams did not participate in the 10-team S.League last year.
Said Lim: "We're fans, they (the FAS and S.League) are the administrators of football here, so maybe they have a bigger picture view of the whole thing.
"If they do want to go ahead with it (the merger), we will accept it, but they must do it according to the constitution."
The S.League did not answer queries from The New Paper pertaining to constitutional matters, but in a statement, a spokesman said: "The merger idea, which was to enable clubs to be financially stronger through combined resources and funds, was, unfortunately, not feasible for implementation at this juncture.
"Woodlands Wellington will continue as a football club under the purview of the S.League, engage in community football activities and pay off its debts, similar to all other clubs sitting out."
However, in response to TNP queries in last April, an FAS spokesman said that it had obtained "in principal approval from the relevant authorities on the merger", and that all matters concerning Woodlands' clubhouse were done with "strict corporate governance."
Shasi Kumar, a former coach at Woodlands, called for more transparency from the FAS and the S.League.
"The merger should not have taken place if it was not carried out in the proper manner. It just should not have happened," he told TNP.
The S.League has witnessed a merger in the past, in 2002, between Balestier Central and Clementi Khalsa.
Both clubs were dissolved with a new entity, Balestier Khalsa, formed.
"Now they (the authorities) will need to come out and explain how and why it happened, and do the right thing by bringing in people who have the interests of the club at heart," added Shasi.
Lim and his group are currently trying to get into the Woodlands executive committee, and if successful, they aim to form youth teams this year, before trying to return to the S.League next year.
"We're now preparing a business plan for the club and trying to get into the Woodlands executive committee so we can play a part in bringing the club back in the right way," he said.