Singapore Football

Revamped S.League to emphasise on youth

Besides U-23 ruling, ailing league also set to limit number of players above 30

The Football Association of Singapore (FAS) announced yesterday the first part of its plans to revive the S.League and key to the rejuvenation is a strong focus on youth.

This was announced by FAS deputy president Bernard Tan after a meeting at Jalan Besar Stadium with S.League club chairmen.

The most significant change confirmed by the association is mandating that each of the six local clubs (Balestier Khalsa, Geylang International, Home United, Hougang United, Tampines Rovers and Warriors FC) should have at least six players under the age of 23 in their squads. At least three Under-23 players must be in their starting line-ups for S.League games.

"The league will have a large emphasis on developing youth," Tan said.

"This will bode well for the future as there will be more people playing at a higher level at an earlier stage.

"There have been questions asked... What if all the (U-23) players get injured, do they have to start?

"We have told the clubs that we will be liberal and allow mid-season registration of U-23 players if for some reason their U-23 players are unable to play."

Tan added that the final plans for the 2018 season will be announced by Friday and there could be restrictions for players over the age of 30.

He said: "There were discussions of where that (U-30) quota should be and whether it will be beneficial and what should be the proportion."

Although not implemented yet, the mooted quota for U-30 players could fall foul of employment regulations. In 2014, the S.League tried to introduce a rule limiting a local club to no more than five outfield players above 30 and at least three players aged 25 or under.

Younger players should be promoted, but they should not have a free pass into the team. Former Singapore winger Ridhuan Muhammad on the new age quotas

The was frowned upon by the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (Tafep), who deemed it to be discriminatory towards the older players.

FAS deputy general secretary Yazeen Buhari assured that Tafep and relevant stakeholders have been kept informed of these proposed changes for next year.

Another key change will see the import quota cut from three to two, with one needing to be under 21 years old with the possibility of naturalising the young import under the Foreign Sports Talent scheme.

The 2018 season will kick off in late March, compared to February starts in previous seasons, and it will end in late October to allow the national team sufficient time to prepare for November's Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup.

All nine clubs that played this year will continue to participate in next season's league. The Garena Young Lions, essentially the FAS' developmental team, will remain for at least two more campaigns to prepare for the 2019 SEA Games and 2020 Olympic qualification.

In a compressed season, the FAS has decided to freeze the League Cup, which is held in June, for at least one year.

Matches will be played during weekends at 5pm, while the FAS will announce further plans to engage local schools and communities to be involved with the clubs during match days.

Also, in a boost to increase the fitness level of players, the FAS will introduce the yo-yo test to replace the 2.4km run. The yo-yo test is a multi-stage shuttle run that gauges anaerobic fitness, which is more relevant to a footballer.

Promotion and relegation between the professional S.League and the two amateur National Football League (NFL) divisions, which was anticipated to be introduced, has been put on hold, but will be continued to be explored by the FAS.

Singapore Football