JDT owner's suggestion to field U-21 team in SPL gets mixed reactions
The Singapore Premier League (SPL) could see the inclusion of another foreign side, after Johor Crown Prince Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim revealed on Sunday that talks were underway to send Johor Darul Ta'zim's (JDT) Under-21 squad to compete in the Republic's professional football league.
Tunku Ismail, who owns JDT, made the remarks about the U-21 squad, known as JDT III, in an interview with Malaysian media.
Asked about the club's development plans for its younger players, he said: "We have put a lot of investment (in our youth).
"Now we have been discussing with the FAS (Football Association of Singapore) to send JDT III to play in the Singapore league because we want to give more competitive games to our young players. Right now, they aren't getting much competitive games in Malaysia."
JDT III participate in Malaysia's President Cup, the national U-21 competition.
FAS president Lim Kia Tong noted the comments made by Tunku Ismail and said in response to queries: "The FAS will extensively review any written application if received, to join the SPL, taking into account the interests of Singapore football, before any decision is made."
The possibility of another foreign side playing in the eight-team SPL has not gone down well with some members of the football fraternity.
Former national defender R. Sasikumar, a keen observer of the local scene, blasted the idea as one that "should not land on anyone's table".
Asked if he saw any benefits the move would bring to Singapore football, the founder of sports marketing agency Red Card Global replied: "None at all. They (JDT) are coming with their third team, what does that say about us?
"I like everything about JDT - what the Johor Crown Prince has done for football... But this is an idea that I cannot support."
Instead, he wants the league to have more local clubs, especially in light of the Unleash the Roar project to help the Lions reach the 2034 World Cup.
"It's about time that we look past foreign teams," he argued. "The ecosystem of having a large player base cannot be ignored any more and the only way to do that is to get at least 10 local clubs in the league."
Former national goalkeeper Shahril Jantan called on the FAS to re-examine the SPL's purpose.
He said: "The decision-makers need to relook why the SPL exists. A strong domestic league will produce a strong national team and local players of good quality."
But Balestier Khalsa vice-chairman and FAS council member Darwin Jalil urged the SPL clubs to embrace the inclusion of sides that could add to the competitiveness of the league.
He said: "It is a good move because it expands the number of teams in the league.
"While increasing the number of local clubs in the league is the end game, we do not have enough matches being played in the SPL due to a lack of clubs.
"Having JDT III could be a good stop-gap measure to boost the competitiveness."