Three ex-S.League clubs told to vacate stadium clubhouses
S.League 'sit-out' clubs told to cease operations at stadiums by end of the month
Sport Singapore (SportSG) has thrown the book at former S.League clubs Gombak United, Woodlands Wellington and Tanjong Pagar United.
The clubs have been told to cease profit-generating operations by the end of this month, but while they search for alternative venues to run their operations, they will be allowed to store their property on the premises until the end of June.
SportSG's stand is that football clubs that do not promote the sport should not be allowed to use public sports facilities to profit.
"When S.League clubs do not participate in the league, as in the case of football clubs Gombak and Woodlands, it is unacceptable to permit revenue-generating activities such as operations of jackpot machines at clubhouse premises," said SportSG's deputy director of public relations, S Parameswaran, in response to queries from The New Paper.
"SportSG takes a very serious view on this, especially so for clubs that have not competed in the S.League for an extended period with no genuine attempt to join the league."
SportSG has an agreement with Football Association of Singapore (FAS) that allows participating S.League clubs to rent premises for their clubhouses and other requirements, including office space.
The revenue generated from the clubhouses is meant to help sustain football operations, and in that way contributes to the development of the sport here.
Gombak sat out the league to consolidate their finances after the 2012 season.
In a move set in motion by S.League administrators, Woodlands were originally poised to merge with Hougang United at the end of the 2014 season - the same year Tanjong Pagar were removed from a down-sizing S.League - before the merger was deemed unconstitutional.
While Woodlands remain in limbo, their clubhouse facilities at the Woodlands Stadium, which features a jackpot room, continue to operate. Featuring similar facilities, Gombak's clubhouse is located at Gombak Stadium.
Tanjong Pagar still maintain an office at their former S.League home at Queenstown Stadium.
While neither Woodlands nor Tanjong Pagar have made moves to return to the S.League, Gombak present a different proposition.
The Bulls have kickstarted their Centre of Excellence (COE) this year with two youth teams, and officially wrote to the FAS last December for permission to return to the S.League next season.
TNP understands that the Gombak COE teams are funded through profits from clubhouse operations, but with an eviction on the horizon, COE coaches have been told that the club are moving to close the teams.
Gombak clubhouse staff have already been served notices of termination of employment.
With Gombak chairman John Yap declining to comment, it remains unclear if the club's target to return to the S.League next year is still on.
Speaking to TNP, Hougang chairman Bill Ng, whose club were to merge with Woodlands, said moves are underway to help.
He said: "As clubhouse adviser, I'm helping both affected clubs (Gombak and Woodlands) to tackle the ground issues. The rest is confidential."
TNP understands that SportSG had communicated with the FAS in January the requirement for the clubs to vacate their existing clubhouse premises before their current tenancies (made with the FAS) expired at the end of March.
An appeal in mid-April was unsuccessful, but SportSG gave FAS an extended period till the end of this month to vacate the premises.
On Friday, the FAS submitted yet another appeal, but it remains unclear if SportSG will budge.
In response to TNP queries, an S.League spokesman said: "We are working closely with the affected sit-out S.League clubs that (have) to vacate (their respective) SportSG premises.
"All parties are working closely together to ensure minimal disruption and inconvenience caused by the relocation."
Said Parameswaran: "SportSG has given the clubs through FAS a fair amount of notice and gesture of goodwill, and we understand that FAS is assisting the clubs in their transition and other matters.
"SportSG cannot condone clubs taking advantage of our support through the FAS when they are not serious about promoting the sport."
“SportSG takes a very serious view on this, especially so for clubs that have not competed in the S.League for an extended period with no genuine attempt to join the league.”
— SportSG’s deputy director of public relations S Parameswaran, on the S.League’s sit-out clubs using public sports facilities for profit-making operations. Among the three clubs, only Gombak United have made moves to return to the S.League, writing to the FAS for permission to do so next year and fielding youth teams in this year’s Centre of Excellence.