Zainudin: Don't write off old strategies for revenue
As Tampines attempt to initiate new revenue streams, FAS chief Zainudin warns not to write off strategies that have sustained S.League for 20 years
Tampines Rovers launched their Pentagon Football Academy last Saturday, taking a step towards the brand-centric revenue model that chairman Krishna Ramachandra envisions for his club.
While he acknowledges that the football academy arena is a very competitive one in Singapore, he remains entrenched in his thinking that the revenue model that S.League clubs have utilised in years past cannot be depended on in the future.
But Football Association of Singapore (FAS) president Zainudin Nordin does not believe what has been used to sustain the S.League for the last 20 years should simply be dismissed.
He believes that the football ecosystem here must be taken into consideration when any new idea is floated.
While Zainudin is willing to listen to new ideas, he appears to place more importance on the quality of the implementation, a lesson he has learnt in recent years.
"I'll be the first to admit that some ideas we've had in the past that were good on paper - I was personally very excited about S.League 2.0 - but we faced struggles in implementing it on the ground," he said.
Launched in 2012, S.League 2.0 was a programme to revamp the S.League, including tweaking the schedule, splitting the competition into a two-tiered half round to decide the champions, and increasing the capacity of the Jalan Besar Stadium.
It was not well received.
"If it's a business model that can be win-win, we'll explore the idea, for sure," added Zainudin, who pointed at the evolving football ecosystem here as a critical factor that must be studied.
"The world has changed since the 1990s - the English Premier League was not a juggernaut then like it is now."
"We need to know our current ecosystem, moderate expectations and do the best that we can to maximise its potential in the current context," he added, paying tribute to current and former club chairmen like Teo Hock Seng (Tampines), Patrick Ang and Leong Kok Fann (Geylang International), S Thavaneson (Balestier Khalsa) and John Yap (Gombak United).
"People like Hock Seng, Patrick, Thavaneson and John have been doing this for years. Some of them want to stop, but then they put more of their own money into (their respective) clubs - and we're thankful for that because it has kept football going," he said.
Krishna, though, wants to push the envelope, even as he grapples with cash-flow issues at Tampines.
"I don't think the current revenue model is wrong, per se, but there has to be an overall product that clubs represent, and it can't just be the players on the pitch in the S.League," said Krishna, pointing to the current system that sees clubs rely on takings from clubhouse jackpot rooms, sponsors, as well as individual benefactors like the respective club chairmen who help fund operations out of their own pocket.
"You never know when these things can be cut off. At some point it's not sustainable, at some point it goes beyond the contacts of the individual chairmen and the goodwill generated with these contacts - it is not sustainable.
"You will compromise relationships because you exploit relationships without a reciprocal value-add offering. The best way is really by building the brand of the club, because then when you go to sponsors, it is not based on goodwill.
"The philosophy of the club is to be leaders in innovation, to be avant garde and promote football across the entire strata of society.
"The academy helps us do that, and we are fortunate that the entire capital expenditure is covered by a third-party investor, and our aim is to make sure that we execute it well," revealed the lawyer, who has put Tampines on the map by signing former Liverpool winger Jermaine Pennant, roping in former Liverpool boss Gerard Houllier as a Tampines ambassador, as well as signing an agreement with Brazilian star Ronaldinho to run his academy here.
"We want to start building a football club in the context of the Singapore environment, one that can sustain itself in years to come."
Zainudin pointed to Home United's Youth Football Academy facility at Mattar Road as an example of a revenue-generating model that can work, along with other ideas in the past, like Geylang's bid to build a clubhouse next to Bedok Stadium, and Hougang United's efficiently run jackpot room that has made the club financially self-reliant.
"There have been many ideas that have been tried out in the past, and we will continue to look at new ones," said Zainudin.
"But what is most important is understanding the ground and implementation."
I’ll be the first to admit that some ideas we’ve had in the past that were good on paper — I was personally very excited about S.League 2.0 — but we faced struggles in implementing it on the ground.
— FAS president Zainudin Nordin, on the shortlived S.League revamp launched in 2012
AFC CUP RESULT
ROUND OF 16
MOHUN BAGAN 1
(Bikramjit Singh 72)
TAMPINES ROVERS 2
(Jordan Webb 63, Afiq Yunos 116)
- After extra time