Long-term repercussions for S.League if Tampines problem isn't solved
Act fast for S.League's sake or Tampines predicament could have long-term repercussions
Those who backed the S.League applauded when the Football Association of Malaysia decided late last year that the LionsXII would no longer compete in club competitions across the Causeway from 2016.
The Singapore side, packed with internationals, were disbanded and the players were duly snapped up by S.League clubs, with eight signed by giants Tampines Rovers.
Tampines then made a bigger splash by securing the services of former Liverpool and Arsenal winger Jermaine Pennant - the biggest name to play in the S.League in its 20-year history.
After years of struggle, there were positive vibes surrounding Singapore's professional football club competition once again.
Just when S.League matches have witnessed bigger fan turnout, enjoyed greater coverage and seemed to be building momentum, news of Tampines' cash-flow issue has hit hard.
This is serious and needs to be addressed urgently.
The club that have done so much to generate the newfound interest in the S.League have asked the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) for financial help.
There are no easy solutions here and FAS chief Zainudin Nordin was spot on when he said they would not fast-track monthly subsidies to Tampines because other clubs have been in financial strife before and it was not an option then.
But a solution must be found quickly. Because if the Tampines project led by new chairman Krishna Ramachandra ends up on the scrap heap, the repercussions could well be felt for years to come.
The FAS and Krishna must work together to strengthen Tampines' management team after recent resignations.
The club are well supported and are peppered with stars led by Pennant.
Tampines are S.League title favourites and are good enough to challenge on more fronts.
Zainudin says new sponsors and donors are the way to go and, while it is always a tough sell after the S.League's lean years, the club have favourable prospects on the field and the FAS and Tampines should already be working in tandem to come up with a blueprint to woo potential backers.
A sizeable number of Singapore fans have just started to take notice of the S.League and they will be lost, possibly forever, if Tampines go backwards.
Such a loss of faith can have even bigger consequences when it comes to current sponsors and the prospect of wooing potential partners.
BOLD AND INNOVATIVE
I have praised Krishna for his bold initiatives and innovative moves, like securing Gerard Houllier as the club's international ambassador.
The 44-year-old lawyer did not hide when the club's cash-flow issue came to light recently, but I wonder how Tampines are in this predicament.
S.League clubs are each due around $600,000 in annual subsidies from the FAS - which are paid out in monthly tranches of approximately $50,000 - with an additional amount of some $300,000 to come should they meet pre-determined targets.
As I understand it, each S.League club must present their plan for the year to the FAS, who will sign off only if expenditure tallies off with the club's annual budget.
Tampines would have known they would have a sizeable wage bill because of the star-studded squad led by big-name local coach V Sundramoorthy.
They would also have factored in expenses like playing in the AFC Cup - the second-tier continental club competition.
The club's earnings from jackpot operations ceased last October, so they would have had to rely on sponsorship money and FAS subsides to make ends meet.
There has been no news of Tampines losing any sponsors.
Former chairman Teo Hock Seng, who handed over the reins to Krishna last November, recently stepped down as adviser of the club.
But Tampines sponsor Komoco Motors, where Teo is the group managing director, has already disbursed $360,000 of the $400,000 promised for the year.
While the average annual budget of an S.League club hovers between $1 million and $1.5m, it is believed Tampines' operating costs are more than $2m.
Tampines are apparently ready to allow some of their stars to move to other clubs during the mid-season transfer window.
There have been missteps, and new strategies to be adopted, but I hope a solution is found quickly to ensure the club do not lose all of their lustre.
No one wants to go back to the poor old days of recent past.