FAS to elect new president probably in June
Football body to hold elections under new framework, Zainudin to step down, new council to take office for four years
He sat beside Zainudin Nordin, as the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) president confirmed yesterday that he would be stepping down next year.
In the press conference that followed the national sports association's annual general meeting (AGM) yesterday at the Jalan Besar Stadium, FAS vice-president Edwin Tong also fielded questions about youth development, the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League, and the amendment of the FAS constitution.
Touted in some quarters, along with fellow FAS vice-president Bernard Tan, as possible successors to Zainudin, Tong did not reject the possibility of running for FAS presidency when the system is revamped next year.
"We (FAS Council) haven't quite decided yet," said Tong, a Member of Parliament for Marine Parade GRC.
"Among the Council, we will decide which one of us is most suitable, and we will get behind one person and support that person as a group.
"Our priority now is to make sure that the constitution is (amended), and done in a very robust way that it stands all scrutiny.
"Once that is done, we will apply our mind to see which one of us might then step up."
Tan was absent from the AGM yesterday, and is believed to be overseas.
Both Zainudin and FAS vice-president Lim Kia Tong stressed during the AGM yesterday, as well as during the media conference afterwards, that the FAS has "not done anything wrong" to prompt the change in its constitution.
The current FAS framework states that all council members are appointed by the minister in charge of sports, and these appointments are then confirmed in a majority vote among its eligible affiliates.
This has been the system since the early 1980s, and Fifa has always granted FAS "special dispensation" on this issue, according to Zainudin.
But, in July, the FAS received instructions from Fifa, after a third-party query to the world body, to review its constitution to allow for a full election of council members to align itself with Fifa's line that associations must operate "independently and with no influence from third parties".
The FAS was told by Fifa in September this year to hold off any change in office bearers until the Singapore body has changed its internal framework.
While Lim pointed out there Fifa's Article 17.2 states that "A Member's bodies shall be either elected or appointed in that Association", with the caveat of complete independence from external influence, the FAS has decided to go ahead with the amendment, with the blessing of the Ministry for Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY), Sport Singapore and the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC).
"In view of a certain level of disquiet and query raised as to whether appointments have the guarantee of complete independence from third-party influence, all stakeholders, including MCCY, SportSG and SNOC, think it's time that we go through the election process so as to put to rest the perception," said Lim, a lawyer, and the person given the lead in amending the FAS Constitution.
"Almost all the 209 member associations of Fifa have already gone down or are going down the electoral path, even countries like Russia and China, which are strong believers in appointing their officials.
"We would stick out like a sore thumb... if we continue to be stubborn and go against the flow of traffic."
Fifa has since requested that the FAS includes two clauses in the latter's new constitution - that the elected council will take office for four years, instead of the current two-year term; and integrity checks for candidates by an independent body.
Fifa has set a timeline of end-March for the amendment of the FAS Constitution, and elections to be held three months later, although Lim said Fifa is allowed to give the Singapore body more time if there are "special circumstances".
Lim added: "At the end of the day, an electoral process has one true benefit, and that really is to make it a level playing field.
"You may have people out there with a very strong talent and passion for football management. And if they are and are better than people on the council, then they should come forward. Having an open election encourages that.
"That's one thing that I feel very strongly about.
"(But) we have to strike a balance; it should be open, but not a free-for-all, because we have seen examples of other NSAs (national sports associations) where the elections become very dirty and mired in controversy.
"That's not what we want."
A coaches academy in the pipeline
Changes are afoot in youth development for Singapore football next year, said Football Association of Singapore (FAS) president Zainudin Nordin last night.
Among the changes are the formation of a new Coaches Academy, a restructuring of the football competitions in schools, a revamped National Football Syllabus, and longer overseas training stints for promising youth footballers and coaches.
On the new Coaches Academy, Zainudin said: "It will look at the current Asian Football Confederation-level courses and how to improve it, by introducing courses like youth development, goalkeeper development... very specific, expert ones.
"We need to build (coaches' capabilities) not just horizontally, but also vertically. If you build only horizontally, you will have (coaches with) very generic skills, but no expert ones.
"We need coaches who are very pointed (focused) in youth development, so we start to build that kind of thing and develop the expertise."
Zainudin added that the schools competitions are headed for a "major change" to allow higher-level youth teams and players play more, and in higher-level competitions.
He said: "We are trying to introduce a different level of competitions. One idea is to have the best regional teams go into a Champions League-model league."
The FAS is also looking at securing overseas attachments for both players and coaches that last from six months to more than a year to aid in their development, as well as to increase the number of Junior Centres of Excellence (JCOE) from eight to 10.
A new JCOE/Club Academies/Singapore Football Academies head, as well as a national Under-17 coach will be appointed by March as well.
Technical director Michel Sablon - credited with revolutionising Belgium's youth development system - will spearhead these changes, with the FAS also due to announce a new Strategic Plan to succeed its six-year framework. - LIM SAY HENG