FAS VP proposes coalition team for new leadership
FAS vice-president Tan says new leadership should include members from various factions
The winds of change are gathering pace at the Football Association of Singapore (FAS).
The governing body of local football is set for its first democratic election, and the fraternity is abuzz with hope for a change it believes can uplift the sport here.
But Bernard Tan, the vice-president of the FAS provisional council, believes these swirling winds could, if the fraternity is not careful, have the opposite effect.
Authorities here have already spoken about their hope for a new FAS leadership that includes members from various factions, and Tan agrees.
In a broad-ranging interview with The New Paper, Tan spoke in his personal capacity, and called for maturity and unity as the sport braces for change.
Said Tan: "An election means more accountability to the electorate, when previously, as the council was appointed, it was directly responsible to the appointing body. Now if we don't manage this transition well, we could see sectoral interests come to the fore, at the expense of the larger national interest"
He pointed to two major changes.
Behaviour of leadership will be geared more towards the electorate, but that needs to be balanced with accountability to the government from whom the FAS receives funding.
Secondly, opposing manifestos may have a destabilising effect with the sport's direction changing every four years.
Tan's solution is a coalition team built from various parties that could stand for office.
TNP understands that in addition to the incumbents, there are two other teams that are being put together for the election.
"We don't want to see a council with unanimous views. A coalition can see a consensus of views, and give a semblance of stability," said Tan.
"In the end, even if the party loses, participation of that party should not be shut off for the next four years (of the leadership's term of office). I would propose that we take the commitment to co-opt them into standing committees."
But Tan acknowledges that victory in the election is not a given, and there is a real possibility that the incumbents could be voted out of office.
"If the community feels that we don't have the ideas to take the sport forward, I'll accept it," said Tan who revealed that the current FAS leadership has yet to decide who and if they will run.
But he called for a gentlemanly battle.
"There must be pure intentions and decorum. Above all, there must be a commitment to not divide the football community," said Tan, who emphasised the importance of this matter.
He asserted that the FAS alone cannot help lift the sport here, with every single stakeholder critical to the development of football.
"In football, it's not just what the FAS does. It takes a country to lift the sport. And that's where it becomes difficult," said Tan.
He spoke of several examples including the need for spaces where the sport can be played - and the need for government agencies to come on board to assist - and for volunteers to aid in getting more children to play football.
While he acknowledges that the FAS could have done better in certain aspects, there have also been successes, especially in terms of engaging schools, and modifying school competitions.
"The FAS needs to make a case for what resources we require, and what back-up we need.
"In football, we lack resources, but still want to get the best," he said, explaining why unity is vital to help the sport move forward.
And he called for the electorate - the FAS' 46 affiliates - to think through their decision at the ballot box.
"It could go all wrong, or right: it really depends on the maturity of the electorate. And I hope we can be mature," said Tan. "After all, we owe it to the citizens of Singapore because football is the No. 1 sport here."
Tan: S.League important but needs a relook
The S.League has undergone several reviews in the past, but it is clear that the right formula for the professional domestic football competition has yet to be found.
While there have been suggestions to turn the league semi-professional, and even those to do away with it altogether, vice-president of the Football Association of Singapore's (FAS) provisional council, Bernard Tan, asserts that the league has contributed to the Republic's football ecosystem.
"The S.League has certainly contributed to a better national team," he said, pointing to consistent competitive football that it provides for local footballers.
But he is acutely aware that the league needs more, with its top players needing to compete in a high-quality competitive league. Indeed, the league has fallen short in key areas.
"There are two areas where the S.League has failed in its initial objective: firstly, it has not become commercially viable," said Tan.
"And secondly, it has not advanced national football to the level we hoped - where we are competitive on the regional or international stage."
Tan asserted that for a league to be commercially viable, some 60 per cent of its revenue needs to come from its fans, in terms of match attendance and merchandise purchases.
In an S.League that has struggled to capture the imagination of the average Singaporean, and where club merchandise sales is negligible, commercial viability is a distant dream. This is especially so with sponsor dollars difficult to come by.
Tan pointed to the "extreme level of fitness" required in modern football, to go along with technical ability.
While footballers across the world have become stronger and faster, there are question marks over the improvement of those here.
"The 2.4km test is not the answer," said Tan, of the league's mandatory test players have to pass.
Players need to clock below nine minutes and 30 seconds to pass. Financial incentives are available to encourage players to do better than just achieve a pass.
"Football fitness in my view, is more accurately measured in a start-stop sprint and recovery protocol rather than a middle-distance aerobic test. Perhaps the Beep Test was a better gauge of football fitness," he added.
The Beep Test is a shuttle run test that was used as the league's mandatory fitness test until 2012.
Fitness aside, Tan acknowledged that football excellence is harder to achieve.
"At the high end, football has become very expensive and, as a region Asean football has fallen, even in the world rankings," he said.
Singapore are a clear example. Ranked 75th in the world order in 1993, the Republic are now 164th.
At 122nd, the Philippines are Asean's top-ranked nation.
"What's clear is this: the new FAS leadership must have strong ideas on how to take the league forward," said Tan. - SHAMIR OSMAN