New Sports Hub CEO Oon works to revive old Kallang magic

New CEO of Sports Hub acknowledges one key task is for venue to form a permanent bond with Singaporeans

Olympian Oon Jin Teik acknowledges that the Singapore Sports Hub is still striving to develop an emotional attachment with Singaporeans - a venue where they go to regularly to cheer, shout, scream, roar on their heroes and also play.

But the former national swimmer, who was yesterday officially unveiled as the new chief executive of the Singapore Sports Hub, believes they are on track.

Speaking to The New Paper yesterday, Oon said: "If people come to watch an event, go home, and feel no connection to this venue, then no experience is gained.

"If they feel no association that this is their own venue that delivered the event, then it's not enough for us.

"We are a destination trade, people don't visit the Sports Hub unless they have something to do here.

"Therefore, we've got to keep evolving the consumer business. For me, I don't see it as a permanent problem."

The $1.33 billion 35-ha site in Kallang, which has been in operation for four years now, is anchored by a 55,000-capacity National Stadium with a retractable roof, and includes an indoor aquatics arena, two multi-purpose halls, a water sports centre, the Singapore Indoor Stadium and the Kallang Wave mall, which houses 41,000 sq m of commercial space for leisure, shopping and dining activities.

The events and figures from 2017 back up Oon's claim that the Sports Hub is making progress as the team strives to revive the kind of relationship Singaporeans had with the old National Stadium at the spanking new venue.

If people come to watch an event, go home, and feel no connection to this venue, then no experience is gained. New Sports Hub CEO Oon Jin Teik


Footfall to the location was over 15 million last year, with more than 200 events across all venues.

The annual International Champions Cup that featured Chelseas, Bayern Munich and Inter Milan attracted 100,000 fans and the two-day Coldplay concert also drew the same number to the National Stadium.

To begin developing a relationship with the young that will hopefully last a lifetime, Oon revealed a key initiative of the Sports Hub was targeting eight-year-old children.

The move, which was launched last November, entitles eight-year-olds with free tickets for Asean Basketball League matches (held at the OCBC Arena) and the OUE Singapore Open badminton tournament, which will be held at the Indoor Stadium from July 17-22.

The Sports Hub has also linked up with six National Sports Associations - football, rugby, badminton, basketball, netball and swimming - to widen their outreach with youngsters.

Oon, 54, said: "Our goal is to bring eight-year-olds into the Sports Hub on a regular basis.

"By reaching out to children of this age, we hope to make lifelong memories of the Sports Hub and instil ownership of this place in them.

"We hope that the Singapore Sports Hub can be part of their lives as they grow up."

Oon represented Singapore in swimming at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.

He was an executive in the private sector before becoming chief executive officer of the Singapore Sports Council (now Sport Singapore) in April 2004.

He joined the Sports Hub consortium as chief operating officer in 2014 and was made acting CEO after the sudden resignation of Manu Sawhney last May.

He is clear what his KPIs are.

Said Oon: "Firstly, I want to make sure this project wins for Singapore. Secondly, to make sure (of a good) rate of returns to shareholders."

New CEO Oon the right fit for Sports Hub

It is touted as a world-class, integrated sports, entertainment and lifestyle hub on its website, coming into being through a 25-year Public-Private Partnership (PPP) agreement between Sport Singapore and SportsHub Pte Ltd.

But, over the years, the relationship between the Sports Hub and Sport Singapore, which represents the Government, has not been the smoothest, with timeline issues and concerns over the condition of the National Stadium pitch cropping up.

Bryn Jones, who became chairman of the Sports Hub consortium last March, suggested that the appointment of Oon Jin Teik as their new CEO will boost the relationship.


Said Jones: "Part of the reason that Jin Teik is being selected for this role is the understanding and empathy for the rationale of thinking on the client's side.

"Our primary client is the Singapore Government, so understanding that entity and what its aspirations are, be it what is highlighted at the National Day Parade, or what is going on behind the scenes politically, is very, very important.

"Having that insight, how that can be met, and for them to feel that they've got somebody leading Sports Hub that they can go and articulate that to, is great."

Oon, 54, is the first Singaporean CEO of the consortium since it began operations in 2014. He took over as acting CEO last May after Indian national Manu Sawhney left abruptly.

Before Sawhney, Frenchman Philippe Collin Delavaud led the Sports Hub since 2011.

Olympian Oon, a former swimmer, was the CEO of the Singapore Sports Council (now Sport Singapore) from April 2004 to December 2010, and was intimately involved in the conceptualisation stage and bidding process for the project.

Oon said: "As of now, I'm quite pleased with the progress of how both sides are coming together and how we can build this relationship."


National Stadium must be home of the Lions

The new chief executive of Singapore Sports Hub reiterated yesterday that the consortium wants the 55,000-capacity National Stadium to be the home of the Lions.

He also added that the Sports Hub will sign a memorandum of understanding with the FAS soon.

At a media briefing yesterday, Oon said: "After all, football is our national sport.

"We are working very closely with the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) to help grow this sport.

"We want to help rebuild it and help give the national team the impetus to say that 'This is our home, home of the Lions'."

Besides hosting world famous clubs in the annual International Champions Cup, the regional AFF Suzuki Cup and marquee local club matches, the Sports Hub is also working closely with FAS to organise football events for the public.

Sports Hub marketing director Lilian Lye said: "We're in the midst of planning an event with FAS that will likely fall on the first week of March.

"We want to create an atmosphere for the public, for Singaporeans, to be able to come to the stadium and support the Singapore football team.

"We hope to give as much support as we can to make this the home of the Lions."

With the World Cup kicking off this June in Moscow, Oon intends to use it as a platform to garner more support and bring fans together at the Sports Hub.

Live screenings of matches are on the cards, and Oon said: "We have to make sure we've got good marketing behind it, a good fan base.

At the end of the day, we want to create an experience for the fans.

"There are many elements in the sport that we have to consider, that multiple parties can enjoy.

"We want to build on the excitement, not only to support Singapore football, but also to support attendances at our events."