Leonard Thomas: For sake of Singapore football, postpone the FAS election
With ongoing police investigations, Fifa should be consulted and a delay instituted
Just three weeks after V Sundramoorthy's Lions took a positive first step in their bid to qualify for the 2019 Asian Cup Finals with a gutsy draw away to Bahrain, an ugly pall has developed, casting a huge shadow over the first election of the Football Association of Singapore (FAS).
Five days from now, 44 affiliates will vote to decide whether Lim Kia Tong and his team or Bill Ng and his Game Changers will run football in the country for the next four years.
After an ugly build-up to the April 29 election, with murky financial deals under the microscope, I believe it should be postponed.
Twice now, the ad hoc electoral committee led by K. Bala Chandran has confirmed that the election will go ahead, even as questions have emerged over the financial management of Ng's National Football League club Tiong Bahru FC, his donations to the FAS and the national sport association's role in the administration of the donations.
These are specifically related to general secretary Winston Lee and then president Zainudin Nordin, and the attempt to take over S.League sit-out club Woodlands Wellington by Ng, who is also chairman of S.League side Hougang United.
Ng maintains that he has nothing to hide and said the authorities have full access to any record they want to examine.
Team LKT, packed with members of the previous FAS Council, say they had no knowledge of what went on in 2014, when the Tiong Bahru and Hougang chief made a donation of $500,000 and started his bid to take over an ailing Woodlands.
In the end, this may all be a storm in a teacup and the financials and other links could well add up.
Members from the two main groups contesting the election may well argue the election should go ahead, based on the fact no wrongdoing has been proven.
Ng's camp will point to the fact no charges have been filed against their candidate for FAS president, while Lim's group will point out that no one on their slate of nine is being investigated. They are right.
But, after officers of the Commercial Affairs Department launched simultaneous raids on the clubhouses of Tiong Bahru, Woodlands and Hougang and the FAS office on Thursday, surely someone needs to press the pause button on the election because so much uncertainty has cropped up and a stench has grown around this election that I feel makes it untenable.
“Someone needs to press the pause button on the election because so much uncertainty has cropped up.”
Fifa told The New Paper last week that it is monitoring developments and it is well known football's world governing body does not tolerate government interference in national football associations' elections.
I am sure that is why Sport Singapore, the administrator of all NSAs here, has treaded carefully, sticking to the facts and offering no opinion as the build-up to the FAS election took one ugly turn after another.
As it stands, there has been no impropriety and it is perhaps the reason lawyer Bala and his team cannot postpone the election, but surely developments call for a consultation with Fifa and local authorities, with all the facts clearly presented.
Perhaps a normalisation committee can be formed until investigations are completed, which is what occurred in the lead-up to the Indonesian Football Federation election on Nov 10 last year.
After all, if this had broken out while Bala's team were conducting the fit and proper test of candidates, it would have required an exhaustive investigation before the green light was issued.
If the election goes ahead on Saturday, two scenarios could play out.
There is a danger the affiliates already think that Ng is guilty and so cannot lead Singapore football, or that he is being victimised.
To vote based on these two premises is plainly wrong because as I've stated before, this battle must be about ideas to transform Singapore football.
I fear the winning team will be tainted even before they begin work.
When the Lions lifted the AFF Suzuki Cup in 2012, Singapore became the most successful team in the history of the competition with four wins.
Even ahead of Thailand.
It was a remarkable turnaround, especially for those who remember the days from the 1980s to the mid-90s, when the Thais pretty much held sway over all other rivals by consistently claiming gold medals at the biennial South-east Asia (SEA) Games, the pre-eminent football tournament in the region before the birth of the AFF competition in 1996.
Five years after that record fourth Suzuki Cup triumph, Singapore football has entered a dark moment just when this football-mad nation would have been hoping for new leadership armed with a bold plan to turn our teams into a consistently strong force on the Asian stage.
Singapore must get this right.
Let's clear up the mess and set a new date for this watershed FAS election.