Gombak, Tanjong Pagar apply to rejoin S.League in 2019
Gombak and Tanjong Pagar apply to rejoin league in 2019
Gombak United have not played in the S.League since 2013, while Tanjong Pagar United have been out since 2015.
After several years in the wilderness, both the Bulls and the Jaguars are looking to step out of the woods and claw their way back into the S.League.
Officials from both clubs told The New Paper that they have sent applications to the Football Association of Singapore (FAS), and are waiting for a decision from the governing body.
Said Tanjong Pagar honorary secretary Chan Kok Hock: "The management committee is of the opinion that the club, having consolidated sufficiently following our sit-out in 2015, are ready to make this commitment.
"With prudent financial management, the club are now in a stronger financial position."
Gombak chairman John Yap revealed that he has had several conversations with his Tanjong Pagar counterparts, with both clubs aware of the uncertainty surrounding the league, especially with next season's funding yet to be finalised.
Said Yap: "We are mindful of the fact that funding for the league is still uncertain, so we are both willing to play in the National Football League Division 1 next year. We want to be supportive of the future of football in Singapore."
The league receives some $16 million in funding from the Tote Board each season, but while The New Paper understands that there was a move to halve that funding, recent talks involving the Football Association of Singapore (FAS), Sport Singapore and the Tote Board have been positive.
This was after the FAS unveiled plans to adopt a more youth-centric approach in the Republic's only professional sports league, with aims to give more playing opportunities to younger players.
TNP understands that next season's funding model will be finalised at the end of the month, with official announcements to follow in early December.
This is not the first time that Gombak are bidding to return to the S.League. In February last year, TNP reported that Yap had written to the FAS indicating his interest to return.
Gombak also restarted their youth programme last year.
Similarly, Tanjong Pagar have also run football programmes for kids in their community.
Gombak's plans to return this year were hit by nationwide issues surrounding jackpot machines last year.
TNP understands that the FAS had ordered an audit on the S.League's sit-out clubs, with both Gombak and Tanjong Pagar coming through the checks unscathed.
In July, the Ministry of Home Affairs announced broad changes to regulations governing permits to operate jackpot machines that will be implemented over the next two years.
These stricter rules could see football clubs struggle to retain their permits to operate such machines.
Said Chan: "Profits from fruit machines are still a significant source of income for the club to fund their youth football development (programmes), women's football and other activities. The club are looking at ways to reduce our reliance on fruit machines.
"As we have not been engaged by the S.League or the FAS on the plan for 2018, we have therefore written in to FAS to express our readiness to meet with the FAS and S.League to further discuss matters regarding the application."
With plans for the future of the S.League yet to be finalised, the FAS is holding back on a decision over both clubs' return.
In response to TNP queries, an FAS spokesman said: "We received correspondence last week from both Tanjong Pagar and Gombak indicating their interest in participating in the S.League, and are currently looking into the matter.
"We will make a further announcement in due course."