Woodlands supporters may form team to run in FAS elections
They stood up to fight to keep Woodlands Wellington alive when the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) looked to merge the club with Hougang United in 2014.
To date, it is a merger that has yet to pass muster, but has proven to be an experience that has convinced James Lim, Ben Teh and their team that football in the Republic is in serious need of new leadership.
While Lim and Teh will have to wait for the FAS to put forward the rules governing its first-ever election pencilled in for June, they are putting the wheels in motion to form a team to bring change to the football fraternity here.
This comes after world football governing body Fifa, asked the FAS to align its constitution to prevent third-party interference in football, and to allow for the fraternity to pick its own leadership.
1 THE WOODLANDS QUESTION
"In the past, we had total trust in our leaders for doing the right thing for Singapore. After the experience in fighting the closure of our football club, it was clear that we need change," said Lim, a former deputy director at the People's Association.
Lim's statements come in the wake of the FAS still being unable to provide concrete answers about the existence of Woodlands, and how their jackpot room is being run.
In an earlier TNP report (Dec 18, Rams not dead), an FAS spokesman said it was awaiting a decision from "relevant authorities with regard to Woodlands' status as a society and the operations of their clubhouse".
The FAS did not answer questions pertaining to the Rams' current existence or how their jackpot room was being run, except that "Woodlands have already commenced repayment of their debts from the revenue generated from the club's fruit machine operations".
"We will find out how they determine the suitability of candidates for the various positions in the FAS council and then, based on that, we will determine who will fit those roles," said the 50-year-old.
2 COMING FORWARD TO SERVE
"We think we're the right people because we are professionals in our own regard and we speak from the heart. But although we're the only ones speaking up for now, we're not the only right ones," said Teh, a 43-year-old technical manager, who declined to reveal the names they are considering.
"I believe there are several people who have the capability, and we hope they come forward to serve.
"Football is the No. 1 sport in this country, with people in professional jobs. I'm sure it won't be hard to find people of calibre to help run the sport here.
"It doesn't matter whether we run for election ourselves, but the FAS needs change, that's for sure."
Their issue with the current leadership runs deeper than the question of Woodlands.
Lim asserts that the FAS has lost touch with one of its most important stakeholders - the fans.
3 LOSING TOUCH WITH SINGAPOREANS
"I firmly believe football can unite people of all races, from all walks of life," said Lim, who is a grassroots leader and chairman of the Woodgrove Community Sports Club.
"I remember the days when the National Stadium was packed with 40,000 to 50,000 people, coming together to celebrate goals, even shout at the referee. That's nation building, and we're missing out on that now,"
"We had less than 10,000 at the National Stadium at the recent World Cup qualifiers. This cannot continue."
While the 3-0 loss to Japan saw 33,868 in the stadium last month, two other home fixtures, against Cambodia and Syria, saw a combined total of just 14,118 fans.
"They say they want to get the national team into the Asian Cup Finals in 2017, but what's the point of all that if they're not bringing the people along on that journey?" asked Lim.
Pointing to the LionsXII misadventure, and the possibility of a Singapore team joining the Asean Super League next year, Lim believes the FAS leadership must make decisions based on what Singaporeans want for the most popular sport in the country.
"It must make decisions by considering the aspirations of Singaporeans," said Lim, who has already made moves to engage all who are concerned about the sport.
"I've already written to the Ministry of Community, Culture and Youth to ask for a national platform to have a discussion on where we see our football going.
"The FAS elections is a historic moment, and it is time for change."
The FAS has not shown that it can rally Singaporeans with a shared vision. Without this shared vision, these people at FAS have not been accountable to stakeholders.
— James Lim (above, left)
Now we have an opportunity. For the first time in our lifetime, we can say that maybe we can do a better job for football, or maybe we know this guy who can change things for the better.
— Ben Teh (above, right)