SPL's restart a significant milestone in resumption of sports in Singapore: Edwin Tong
The Singapore Premier League has been given the green light to restart behind closed doors on Oct 17, following negative Covid-19 tests for 223 personnel – all players from the eight local-based clubs and match officials.
Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong made the widely anticipated announcement in a Facebook post on Friday (Oct 9), adding that this is a significant milestone in the safe resumption of sporting activities in Singapore.
Mr Tong, who is also second Minister for Law, said in a media release: "It has been over 200 days since we witnessed Singapore Premier League teams in action. I’m thrilled that the season is restarting, behind closed doors for now, and encourage Singaporeans to catch our top footballers in action online.
"This is a significant milestone in the progressive and safe resumption of sport activities in Singapore. MCCY (Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth), MOH (Ministry of Health), SportSG and the FAS (Football Association of Singapore) have worked hard to develop the necessary safe management measures, so that the players and public can get their football fix once again.
"While we may not be able to watch the matches live at the stadiums for the time being, your support on the livestreams will mean a lot to our clubs."
The matches will be shown live on Singtel TV, StarHub TV and myCujoo as well as streamed online via the SPL and 1PlaySports Facebook pages.
The SPL played its last match on March 20, a 2-2 draw between Tanjong Pagar United and Albirex Niigata. The league's suspension was announced four days later amid tightening control measures for the Covid-19 pandemic.
When the nine-team competition resumes, it will be cut from three rounds to two, with the season scheduled to end on Dec 19. This year's Singapore Cup has also been axed.
Expressing his gratitude to the various government agencies, FAS president Lim Kia Tong said: "The FAS will ensure that all the necessary Covid-19 safe protocols are strictly adhered to, to ensure the smooth restart of the league and hopes it will pave the way for more local sports leagues and events to resume.”
To ensure the league is run safely, a raft of measures has been put in place. They include:
(a) Keeping the number of personnel at each match to a minimum and under 100 personnel, segregated into five zones within the stadium.
(b) Staggering the arrival and departure timing of players and officials, from up to five hours pre-match to an hour post-match, to avoid bunching at entrances and other key areas and prevent interaction between the different zones.
(c) Requiring all personnel in the stadium to mask-up and be positioned at least 2m from one another.
(d) Only the 22 players and four match referees on the field will be allowed to be unmasked. All players and match officials will continue to undergo Covid-19 swab tests fortnightly.
(e) The matches will be played without fans for the time being to reduce the risk of further community transmission.
On the issue of Brunei DPMM's continued participation, Lim said: "We have provided Brunei DPMM with an option of having their matches played in Singapore considering the recommended protocols. We await their response by Monday (Oct 12) after which we will make the necessary preparations for the resumption. We remain hopeful that they will provide a favourable reply to our proposal.”
Not surprisingly, news of the SPL's resumption was greeted with much cheer by players and officials.
"Yeah the wait is finally over. After a few months of Zoom training, two months of group of five and a month of full training," said Albirex Niigata goalkeeper Hyrulnizam Juma'at.
"Every player in my club feels happy and excited to get the league running again."
Hougang United coach Clement Teo added: "No doubt we are excited, but we are also cautious with regards to injuries.
"It will be very important to start well although we will be competing against Tampines Rovers followed by DPMM. It will be good to see where we will stand after these two games."
Teo added that he will be rotating his squad in order to minimise injury risk, as players are resuming competitive action after a break of more than six months.
SPL FIXTURES on REOPENING WEEKEND
Oct 17 (Sat)
- Tampines Rovers v Hougang United (5.30pm, Our Tampines Hub)
- Tanjong Pagar United v Balestier Khalsa (5.30pm, Jurong East Stadium)
Oct 18 (Sun)
- Lion City Sailors v Geylang International (5.30pm, Bishan Stadium)
- Young Lions v Albirex Niigata (5.30pm, Jurong West Stadium)