S.League clubs to get more money, but...
There were groans and moans last month when it was announced that the 2015 Great Eastern Yeo's S.League would see a reduction in the number of clubs.
Tanjong Pagar United would sit out, while Woodlands Wellington and Hougang United would merge into a mega-club.
It did mean, however, that additional funds will be available for clubs as part of the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) subsidy.
S.League clubs used to receive around $900,000 each in annual subsidies, with about $500,000 in cash and the rest dependent on them fulfilling specified key performance indicators.
With the number of teams cut from 12 to 10 now, clubs will each receive $130,000 more, mostly in cash.
It does come at the right time, with operational costs (stadium rental and field maintenance) set to increase by some 20-25 per cent next year, although it does mean that little of the increased funding will go towards salaries for foreign signings, for example, especially when the FAS ended the Marquee Player Scheme subsidy, believed to be pegged at around $20,000 per club for a star foreign signing.
"We appreciate the additional funds, but honestly, it won't change much," Balestier Khalsa chairman, S Thavaneson, told The New Paper yesterday.
"It hasn't affected how we've formed our squad, because that was based on the budget that we've already drawn up. This will help reduce our deficit for the year."
Thava revealed that the Tigers, who won the 2013 League Cup and the 2014 RHB Singapore Cup, run on a deficit of some $400,000 each year, a deficit that is funded internally, through profits from the club's games room, donations and sponsorships.
"Our budget is reasonably large and we are prepared to accept a reasonable deficit, but we won't be spending silly money."
In response to TNP queries, FAS spokesman Gerard Wong said: "The restructuring of the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League into a 10-club league next season allows for more funding to be given to the remaining eight local-based clubs.
"This increase in funding will help them to build stronger squads, which we hope will also result in a more competitive League. More importantly, it will also assist them in managing the rising costs of stadium rentals, field maintenance and stadium licensing.
"Some clubs have also indicated the desire to register bigger squads which will enable them to compete more effectively next season. This is welcome news to us.
"The new budget was given to the clubs a month ago and the S.League is confident that there will be ample time for the clubs in turn to project next season's budget as the period for player registration is from 5 Jan 2015 to 27 March 2015.
"Finally, the suspension of the Marquee Player Scheme (MPS) has much to do with the continually rising costs of club operations. The rise in costs makes it very challenging to sustain the MPS. We are confident though that the increase in funding will allow clubs to make better foreign signings."
Tampines Rovers are known to be one of the biggest spending teams in the S.League, and chairman Teo Hock Seng is determined to bounce back after a 2014 campaign that ended without a trophy.
"We are getting a little bit more in funding and we are funnelling it to the team," said Teo, who was more pleased at getting the nod to move from Clementi Stadium to Jurong West Stadium.
"We are pleased that we get to move to Jurong, because it is a better catchment area, and with the (Pioneer) MRT Station just across the road, it will be easier to draw fans to the stadium."
Thava admitted that the removal of the MPS means Balestier will not be able to afford a top foreign player like striker Goran Ljubojevic, who banged in 20 goals for the Tigers in 2014.
But he remained hopeful that the 2015 season will be an exciting one.
"This year's league was very competitive, with five teams in the running at one point of the season, and we didn't have that extra money," he said.
"While it won't be easy to replicate the good things for 2015, it is clear that it wasn't the money that made the 2014 season competitive."