Sports

Rugby’s ‘Save Turf City’ call

Fraternity bemoan the end of venue's lease next year; under the Draft Master Plan 2019, Bukit Timah region will be converted into a residential area

He has been playing rugby at Turf City for almost 15 years. It was where he and his wife had honed their rugby skills while studying in polytechnic.

Now, while he trains, his son runs and plays around the fields.

To national rugby captain Gaspar Tan, Turf City is akin to his second home.

The 31-year-old's sentiments are echoed by many others. On weekends, Turf City bustles with activity. People from all walks of life gather to play sports ranging from futsal to frisbee.

However, this sporting paradise - previously the old Singapore Turf Club - may soon cease to exist as the lease for the land ends next year.

Under the Draft Master Plan 2019 released by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) last month, the Bukit Timah region, which encompasses Turf City, will be converted into a residential area.

To prevent the redevelopment from taking place, multiple organisations have taken to Facebook and Instagram to call for people to "save turf city" by filling in the feedback form on the URA website. A petition has also been started on change.org.

Describing Turf City as a hub of activity, Douglas Danapal, the Singapore Rugby Union's head of commercial and partnerships, said: "On a normal rugby day, there will be about six games being played on two of the fields while all four fields are filled with kids' matches and training from 8am to noon.

"If the lease is not extended, rugby... is in trouble. The more than 2,000 members of the various junior rugby clubs will not have a place to train and play."

Local players and coaches share those views. National touch rugby player, Muhammad Nur Solihin, 19, believes the redevelopment would leave fewer venues for the sport.

He said: "Singapore is so small and the lack of playing fields nation-wide makes it harder for us athletes, be it recreational or professional, to find another place to call home."

The Temasek Polytechnic student felt sad when he heard about the planned conversion of the Bukit Timah region.

He added: "Plus, for the rugby side, we are finally gaining more support for our game these past few years. URA's plans to build residences will only kill the momentum."

Solihin has been frequenting Turf City since 2014, for rugby training and to play futsal with his friends.

PRESERVE THE PLACE

He thinks it is important to preserve the place for everyone in the sports community.

Robert Devine, 41, founder of Singapore-based touch rugby club Tin Hill Royals Touch, believes the redevelopment of Turf City would be a blow to sports.

Devine, who has been coaching for 15 years, said: "The sports community will be left without a venue where grassroots sports enthusiasts can run around, and where competitive sport can be played socially, or to the highest level."

Danapal added: "Turf City is a valuable part of the rugby ecosystem in Singapore. Losing the area will not only affect rugby as a sport, but also the social, cultural and economic integration among the people."

For Devine and many others, Turf City is a place close to their hearts. He said: "My kids, Cai and Tian, started their international rugby and touch careers at Turf City, and went on to play in some of the largest events in Asia.

"Coaching them both at Turf City, and watching them grow, will be a memory I will always treasure."

Cai, 21, stayed in Singapore for 16 years and is now part of the Wales rugby sevens team, while Tian plays for the Singapore Under-18 touch rugby team.

Added Tan: "I still remember all the times we played there, mainly the victories. All our blood, sweat and tears are there.

"It would be very sad news, knowing that the ground we played so much on will be lost."

Although the deadline for the URA feedback form has passed, Danapal suggested that people can continue sending their letters of support and e-mails to the URA, or share their stories on the Facebook page of Singapore Rugby.

OTHER SPORTS