FAS announce sweeping changes to S.League
President Lim says officials, coaches and players need to be more professional in their mindset
Football Association of Singapore (FAS) president Lim Kia Tong had to dish out some hard truths on the reasons for the big changes planned for next year's S.League.
In the biggest transformation of the league since its inception in 1996, the FAS announced yesterday that it will drive down the average age of players with Under-23 quota, implement the gruelling Yo-Yo test to gauge the players' fitness as well as conduct courses for administrators, coaches and players to upgrade their skills.
And it is the current state of Singapore's only professional sports competition and the possibility of a drastic cut in funding that prompted the extensive makeover.
For Lim, who was elected in April, it is high time for officials, coaches and players to be more professional in their mindset.
The 64-year-old lawyer said on the sidelines of yesterday's announcement: "The threat of going semi-pro was very real.
"These past months, my team and I have been trying to make good on our promise by putting together a proposal to rejuvenate our league, to keep our professional league.
"In this process, we have a commitment to our stakeholders to justify the funds we require.
"We are glad to note that we have the full endorsement by stakeholders who have committed to multi-year support, so that helps clubs to plan long term."
The FAS' plans revolve around four key pillars - youth development, capability development, cost efficiency and a vibrant football culture.
Local clubs can look forward to substantial subsidies, totalling $888,200 if key performance indicators are met.
Some of these changes are geared to make the local footballers more professional on and off the pitch, a point stressed by Lim.
He said: "Players overseas put in so much effort to be professional. Our players train just once a day.
"The clubs must be more professional, the mindset of the management has to change if we are to play entertaining and fast-moving football, which is the name of the game now.
"No development means no future. If we encourage younger players to join the S.League, there is a future in our football.
"I strongly believe it is time to roll out these changes and, if we take control with vigilance, the football landscape will change."
It had been reported that FAS could implement the pooling and redistribution of the clubs' jackpot revenue, but FAS deputy president Bernard Tan said that the idea was not discussed and will not be introduced in 2018.
Sit-out clubs Gombak United and Tanjong Pagar United will also not return next year.
The FAS' plans have been given the thumbs up from national sports agency Sport Singapore.
Toh Boon Yi, the chief of SportSG's Singapore Sports Institute, said: "The FAS leadership has signalled its commitment to make the necessary changes to turn the fortunes of Singapore football around.
"It is imperative that key stakeholders get behind them and the implementation of the plans as 'One Team Singapore'."
Key changes for S.League 2018
- The six senior local clubs - Tampines Rovers, Home United, Geylang International, Warriors FC, Hougang United and Balestier Khalsa - are assured a sum of $888,200 each for next season, a drop of 19 per cent from this year.
- But the FAS top brass stressed that players' salaries will not be affected, with the cuts made affecting only "administrative" aspects such as insurance subsidies.
- Each senior local club will have a minimum of 19 and a maximum of 25 players.
- For squads with 19 to 22 players, a minimum of six players must be aged 23 and under, with another eight aged 30 and under.
- A maximum of two foreign imports can be signed by each team, with no restrictions on their ages.
- This leaves room for up to six local players in each squad who are aged 30 or older, which means the entire league could have 36 players in this age bracket.
- FAS deputy president Bernard Tan explained that, based on the players who were registered in this year's S.League, only 28 will be above 30 next year, meaning no player will be denied the chance to play because they are "overaged".
- If a club wishes to register more players up to the maximum of 25, they can add only U-23 locals to their squad.
RULES FOR FIELDING PLAYERS
- Three U-23 locals must start for each senior local club in every match.
- An U-23 player must be replaced by another U-23 player if the substitution occurs in the first half.
- Beyond the first half, an U-23 player can be replaced by any other player.
YOUNG LIONS AND ALBIREX NIIGATA
- The Young Lions, a developmental U-21 team, will compete in the S.League for another two seasons.
- Albirex Niigata, S.League champions in 2016 and 2017, will register a squad almost entirely aged 23 or younger.
- They will register nine U-23 players, as well as between nine and 13 U-21 players.
- Goalkeeper Yosuke Nozawa, 38, is the only player above the age of 23.
- They also have the option of signing two Singaporean U-23 players.
- The squad make-up of Brunei DPMM is still being discussed.
KICK-OFF AND MATCH DAYS
- Next season's S-League matches will start at 5.30pm on Saturdays and Sundays.
- The season will kick off on March 31 with the Community Shield match between Albirex Niigata and Tampines Rovers at the Singapore Sports Hub.
- It will end in late October to allow national players to prepare for the year-end AFF Suzuki Cup.
- The League Cup is dropped to ease fixture congestion.
- The S.League could be re-branded as the Singapore Premier League. Discussions are ongoing.
- The 2.4km fitness test will be replaced by the Yo-Yo test which will be held twice or thrice across the season.
- The FAS is still in discussion with the Singapore Sports Institute over the ideal passing mark for the test.
- The Prime League (a U-21 competition) will be scrapped. Teams will be encouraged to play non-competitive matches with their reserves, a day after scheduled S.League matches, against the same opponents at the same venues.