Confirmed: Financially troubled Warriors to sit out new SPL season
Players to meet management today to find out what's next, after FAS confirms decision to let financially troubled club skip 2020 campaign
Singapore's most successful football club, Warriors FC (WRFC), will miss the new Singapore Premier League (SPL) season.
Citing Warriors' financial difficulties, the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) confirmed in a media statement yesterday that the nine-time league champions will sit out the 2020 campaign.
FAS had made an announcement a week ago, but club officials rejected the decision then. They were hoping for a U-turn after meeting with the national body, but to no avail.
FAS said in its statement yesterday that it had been "deeply concerned" that Warriors are carrying "substantial debts into this year, with little or no reasonable prospect of meeting them".
It added that when the club were asked to present a proposal for 2020, there was a lack of concrete details regarding their ability to clear the incurred liabilities and maintain future financial sustainability.
The decision to let Warriors sit out the new season was especially hard on the club's players and staff.
The club have already signed at least 15 players for the new season, which is scheduled to kick off late next month.
Defender Delwinder Singh, one of those who had signed a contract, told The New Paper yesterday: "The club have kept us updated throughout, and we'll be meeting the management tomorrow to find out what's next.
"This news does come as a surprise to us... Since I signed the contract, I've been professional with carrying on training. I left the club to settle the matters. That's all I can do as a player."
A player who did not want to be named told TNP that the squad learnt of FAS' decision through Facebook, after a training session last evening.
He said: "This is quite hard for us to accept. The club had informed us that all the issues would be settled and we would be participating in the new season. Most of us signed our contracts even before we heard about the club being told to sit out of the new season.
"This isn't a decision that FAS would have reached overnight, so why weren't the players informed? FAS could have communicated with us and we would be considering other clubs instead. Some of the players have a family to feed, so what do we do now?"
Another player added that the players have yet to hear directly from FAS. TNP understands that FAS officials will be working with Warriors and the players to find new clubs for them.
Financial trouble has been brewing at the Warriors for some time.
The Straits Times reported in October 2018 that the club struggled to pay their staff on time, leading to the Ministry of Manpower barring the club from foreign hires.
Last November, the club were charged with owing over $350,000 in salaries to their employees from as far back as July. But last month, the club said they had paid $150,000 of that amount through loans from their management committee members.
In its statement, FAS added: "As of 31 Dec, 2019, as far as can be told, WRFC is indebted to the amount of more than $800,000 to players/staff, the CPF Board and IRAS", adding that the club have little or no reasonable prospect of meeting the debts.
Without Warriors, the SPL is now down to eight clubs, of which only six are local.
There was talk of a club being re-introduced to fill the void. Gombak United, who last fielded a team in the 2012 season and Tanjong Pagar United, who left the league after 2014, were said to be keen on returning.
But a Warriors player said: "Most of the clubs in the league have already signed a full roster of players for the new season.
"Even if a new club is coming in, why would they be forced into signing us? The new club would have its own idea.
"This is a nightmare for us."