Teo worried about Tampines' plans
Former chairman coy over possible return; current chief Krishna says wage cut a must
In 15 years at the helm, he oversaw five S.League titles, three Singapore Cup wins and even watched his charges return with an Asean Club Championship trophy.
Teo Hock Seng is still regarded as the "godfather" of Tampines Rovers, with players and officials still referring to him as "boss", even though he stepped down from as Stags' chairman in November last year.
The 70-year-old told The New Paper yesterday that he is old and tired, but the famous fire in the belly is clearly still burning bright.
TNP reported yesterday that the Tampines' wage bill would be significantly reduced next season, with the squad informed on Thursday that the club planned to keep only players willing to accept a monthly salary of up to a maximum of $2,500.
It is believed their foreign players were informed that their contracts would not be renewed.
Teo is very concerned, especially when Tampines will represent Singapore in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup again next year.
"Something has to be done. What is happening at Tampines and how are they going to represent Singapore at the Asian level if they are only going to settle for players who are going to accept $2,500 salaries," he wondered, sounding exasperated at the idea that Tampines would fly the Singapore flag on the continent with a squad well short on quality.
When asked if he was open to returning to Tampines, Teo left the door ajar.
He said simply: "The financial situation has to be sorted out first."
ELATION: Former Tampines chairman Teo Hock Seng in the arms of midfielder Mustafic Fahrudin after the Stags' 1-0 victory over title rivals Home United, which sent them on their way to the S.League title in 2011
With seven national players in the current squad, boosted by foreign stars like former Liverpool winger Jermaine Pennant, Jordan Webb and Billy Mehmet, the Stags qualified for the quarter-finals of this year's AFC Cup.
They will qualify for next year's tournament as well, having already cemented their place as the highest ranked local side in the nine-team S.League, as well as earning a spot in the RHB Singapore Cup final later this month, against newly-crowned champions Albirex Niigata of Japan.
No foreign team can represent Singapore at AFC tournaments.
Three players - Izwan Mahbud, Shahdan Sulaiman and Shakir Hamzah - are on two-year deals and are likely to stay if no other club are willing to take over their contracts.
It remains to be seen if any of the current crop of Stags will stay for a $2,500 salary.
Current Stags chief, Krishna Ramachandra, who took over from Teo as chairman last year, was not too perturbed by the quality of the team he sends into the AFC Cup.
He would like the team to do well, but felt the current situation at the club means changes have to be made.
"If we had a limitless budget it would be nice to have predominantly the same squad. Sadly we are not in Utopia. Real life is where we operate in," said the lawyer, who, at the start of the season, roped in former Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier as Tampines' international ambassador.
"I am not cutting salaries as a whim - it is what is ultimately sustainable for the club at this point of time.
"And we will not compromise on the jackpot revenue decision - certainly as long as I am asked to guide the club.
"As we grow other revenue streams we will grow as a club and invest further on our academy and youth players," he insisted.
Krishna has declared his aim to run Tampines in a "sustainable" way. His response to how long will it take for his revenue model to fly is this: "Step by step. Let's see."
Most S.League clubs depend on takings from jackpot operations in their clubhouses to supplement the approximately $800,000 they receive in S.League subsidies.
Clubs require between $1.2 million and $1.5m annually, but Tampines' 2016 cost is believed to be significantly higher than that.
"Importantly and what people do not necessarily realise, by making widespread salary cuts, we are predominantly able to offer jobs to everyone - that is another club philosophy.
"For example, offering a job and another role to a player who is injured and cannot play for us nor for anyone else in the foreseeable future," said Krishna, without elaboration.
"Who will pick up this slack? We have a community responsibility as a club."
"Something has to be done. What is happening attampines and how are they going to represent Singapore at the Asian level if they are going to settle for players who are going to accept only $2,500 salaries.
- Former Tampines chairman Teo Hock Seng