Army no longer behind Warriors
Private sponsor, not Mindef, now have full autonomy of S.League's most successful club
They changed their name from the Singapore Armed Forces Football Club to Warriors FC in 2013, in what now appears to have been the first step of an eventual divorce from the S.League giants' military roots.
At the club's Annual General Meeting (AGM) on Saturday, retired army Brigadier General Lam Shiu Tong stepped down as chairman, surrendering the reins to 2016 co-chairman Philip Lam and with it, the military's full autonomy of the most successful side in the 21-year history of the S.League.
Borne from the Singapore Armed Forces Sports Association, the side previously came under the direct purview of the Ministry of Defence (Mindef).
But with new sponsors looking for more say in the running of the club, Mindef has ceded control, as the outfit embarks on a new phase in their history.
"The new chairman is indeed non-military and the club are letting private sponsors come in to lead," Lam told The New Paper.
"Mindef's position is that they have supported the club for years and now, with a private sponsor, they will move away from this relationship with the club to let the new sponsors have full autonomy."
He declined to name the sponsor that will come on board.
The club's new chief takes over the league's most decorated side. Warriors have won the S.League title a record nine times and have four Singapore Cup triumphs to their name.
The club remain the only Singapore side to have participated in the main draw of the continent's top club competition, the Asian Football Confederation Champions League, in 2009 and 2010.
"I've been around for five full seasons and this change is a normal succession because we can't have a chairman hanging on for too long in the club. I will stay on at Warriors as an adviser, for continuity and to help the transition of leadership," said retired army BG Lam.
Two other clubs in the league who have undergone management changes in the last couple of seasons have not enjoyed the easiest of times.
Tampines Rovers struggled with "cashflow issues" a few months into the first season under new management last year, while Geylang International also battled with financial issues of their own.
While both clubs seem to have found some sort of resolution to their troubles, the Warriors' move comes at a time when the S.League itself is in transition.
The S.League confirmed the quantum of its funding from the Tote Board only last week, just six weeks before the 2017 campaign kicks off on Feb 26.
With the Football Association of Singapore poised for the first democratic election of its leaders, plans for the future of the league will have to wait till the new leadership takes office.
The Warriors last won the league in 2014 and have suffered a barren run of late.
But Lam remembers the good times well.
"I have a lot of fond memories. In terms of celebrations, winning the league in 2014 was of course a major high," he said.
"Working with various coaches and players, and seeing the team dynamics were positives on my journey as a chairman," said Lam, who paid tribute to the Warriors fan club who were named the league's "Fan Club of the Year" in nine of the last 15 seasons.
"Last but not least, the passionate fans who have stayed with the club throughout my time here have given me many positive memories and, for that, I am grateful."