Tampines chief asks FAS for subsidy advance
Tampines boss wants an advance of FAS subsidy so that situation does not escalate
They captured the imagination of the local football fraternity in recent months.
First, Tampines Rovers signed a host of Singapore internationals. Next, they secured the services of former Liverpool and Arsenal winger Jermaine Pennant, making him the biggest name to grace the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League.
The Stags built on that on the field, putting bums on seats in the S.League.
They even added some glitz and glamour by organising their own awards night - the inaugural Pentagon Awards.
But the Tampines project aimed at reinvigorating the local football scene is facing its first serious obstacle - cash flow.
Club chairman Krishna Ramachandra, who took over from former chief Teo Hock Seng last November, has approached the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) in a bid to aid the situation.
Speaking to The New Paper yesterday, Krishna, 44, said: "We are effectively a new club who don't have the benefit of deep pockets (reserves) to tap on as a buffer and what we're facing now is a simple case of cash flow.
"It is not something extraordinary - businesses also face issues of cash flow - but we don't want it to spiral out of control."
He cited costs involved in participating in the AFC Cup as an added burden on top of monthly expenditure and the club's bid to set up new revenue streams.
"Now it is a simple case of getting (an advance on) the subsidies (from the FAS) that are rightfully due to us, and reimbursements from our AFC Cup participation, which is quite expensive."
Each club receive around $600,000 in annual subsidies from the FAS, which pays out in monthly tranches of about $50,000.
An additional $300,000 would be handed out should clubs meet predetermined targets.
Former chairman Teo had promised a total of $400,000 in sponsorship and donations to Tampines this year and has already paid out in excess of $300,000.
But, while the average annual budget of an S.League club hovers between $1 million and $1.5 million, Tampines' operating costs are believed to be well above $2 million.
The club have eight players from the disbanded LionsXII side on their books - LionsXII players draw between 50 per cent and 150 per cent more in monthly salaries than the S.League average of $3,500 - as well as Pennant's $20,000 monthly wage.
It is a huge wage bill, even taking into account the $130,000 in wage subsidies provided by the FAS for LionsXII players.
AFC Cup expenses include travelling costs, as well as costs involved in putting up visiting teams, and Tampines have three home games and three away ones in their ongoing Group E campaign, which has already seen them travel to Malaysia, Bangladesh and Philippines.
While Tampines have got on board a slew of sponsors, including law firm Duane Morris & Selvam LLP and Decathlon, the club are still facing cash-flow issues, but it is not something Krishna is shying away from.
"We have been innovative and look at the good that's come about, we've brought in the crowds. But we can't be naive to think that it would come without cost," he pointed out.
"In a perverse way, I think it's great that this issue (of finances) is now being debated, it's the elephant that's been in the room for 20 years. Maybe no one has been foolhardy enough to do that."
The standing practice in the S.League is for clubs to present their annual budget before the season starts.
While the S.League did not answer TNP's queries on how the Tampines situation had come about despite the corporate governance policies, it did assert that it will help.
"We will work closely with clubs to help with any issues they might face, and this includes clubs who may face cash-flow problems during the course of the season," said an S.League spokesman in a statement.
"All clubs are treated equally on all matters - including policies and subsidies - based on our guidelines. We abide by a strict code of governance in all financial matters."
While most clubs rely on jackpot operations in their clubhouse for revenue, Tampines do not.
TNP had earlier revealed that the Stags had been evicted from the Burlington Square premises due to rental arrears amounting to some $90,000, but Krishna does not believe in that revenue model.
"It's important that clubs don't rely on artificial income, like the jackpot operations, or from personal benefactors.
"These keep clubs small, conservative, and prevents them from being innovative," he said.
But, all of a sudden, questions are being asked of Tampines' ability to stick with their formula.
"While there will be questions about cash flow and paying players' wages, and I won't belittle these issues, there are bigger things we should be talking about," said Krishna, who is confident of the FAS' support in the matter.
Tampines Rovers' recent milestones
10 Dec 2015 -
Brazilian superstar Ronaldinho signs a memorandum of understanding with Tampines to set up Ronaldinho Football Academy here. It comes under the auspices of the Stags, adopting the Tampines academy now being run by the club for the North East Community Development Council.
10-28 Dec 2015 -
Tampines snap up nine players - Izwan Mahdud, Izzdin Shafiq, Hafiz Abu Sujad, Sufian Anuar, Firdaus Kasman, Afiq Yunos, Christopher van Huizen, Shakir Hamzah and Shahdan Sulaiman - from the disbanded Malaysian Super League side LionsXII. Firdaus later leaves to join the Young Lions.
19 Jan 2016 -
Tampines sign former Arsenal and Liverpool winger Jermaine Pennant, reigniting much interest in the S.League.
28 March 2016 -
Tampines appoint ex-Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier as their club's international ambassador. He is set to visit Singapore at the end of this year, to help the Stags' youth development effort and offer his expertise to improve football here.
9 April 2016 -
Tampines hold the inaugural Pentagon Awards night at The Fullerton Bay Hotel. The glitzy affair is graced by Johor Crown Prince Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim, who is presented with The Leader's Leader award.
10 May 2016 -
Tampines get approval to host their AFC Cup game with Malaysian giants Selangor at the National Stadium, which would make them the first S.League club to play a competitive match at the SportsHub. They were also the last S.League side to play at the old National Stadium, where they beat Thai side Chonburi 3-2 to win the Singapore Cup in 2006. - SHAMIR OSMAN