Thai League's ex-deputy CEO set to be part of Unleash the Roar project
Thai League's ex-deputy CEO, a S'porean, to get role with Unleash the Roar project
He played a key role in Thai clubs' rise in recent years.
Now, Singaporean Benjamin Tan, who relinquished his dual position as the Thai League's deputy chief executive and the Football Association of Thailand's (FAT) director of club licensing last week, is set to be part of the Republic's Unleash the Roar project.
The 44-year-old, who announced on Facebook on Sunday that he is calling time on his five-year stint in Thailand, flew home to Singapore last night and is serving his 14-day quarantine.
Tan told The New Paper: "I'm very happy to be back. When I heard about the Unleash the Roar project, I was excited about it and now I'm honoured to be part of it.
"These are exciting times with plans in place to raise the standard of Singapore football. With support from everyone - fans, officials, players, parents, schools, the Government, sponsors and the media - I hope Singapore football can get a lift."
TNP understands that Tan will be tasked with raising the standards of Singapore Premier League (SPL) clubs and driving the privatisation of the professional competition, a key component of the local football ecosystem that the Unleash the Roar project is seeking to improve.
The SPL started its privatisation process last year, with the Lion City Sailors - who are bankrolled by local billionaire Forrest Li - becoming the first privatised outfit.
In March, Football Association of Singapore (FAS) president Lim Kia Tong admitted that privatisation is the way forward for the 25-year-old competition, as clubs cannot keep relying on the Government for handouts decade after decade.
Raising clubs' standards would be something that Tan is more than familiar with. As the FAT's director of club licensing, he helped Thai clubs improve on various aspects of football management, from youth development to club governance.
Tan had risen through the ranks as an FAS competitions executive in the 2000s to be the Asian Football Confederation's (AFC) head of club competitions from 2010 to 2014.
He returned to the FAS as a deputy director of development and planning from 2014 to 2016, after which he was headhunted by the FAT.
As he calls time on his latest overseas stint, the Thai League has become the best in the region. Thailand also now has four spots in the AFC Champions League, including one via the play-offs. It's a feat which did not go unnoticed by other South-east Asian nations.
Vietnam, which like Singapore, has only one slot in Asia's premier club competition, had wanted to poach Tan to become CEO of the V-League, reported various Vietnamese media.
But, when his country's call came, Tan's mind was made up.
Former Thailand international Therdsak Chaiman called Tan the catalyst behind the rise of Thai clubs.
"Before he came, we didn't know about club licensing. But Ben helped to improve the clubs' standards," Therdsak, who also coached Thai top-tier club Chonburi FC, told TNP.
"It wasn't easy at first because clubs didn't understand why they had to spend money on this and that. But you see today, we have four Thai clubs competing in the AFC Champions League."
If Singapore football is to succeed, however, Tan cannot do it alone, warned Therdsak.
"Ben has the experience and know-how of improving clubs' standards," he added.
"But he must get the support from everyone, just like he did in Thailand."