SportSG chief: Athletics needs ‘shake-up’, FAS must ‘manage current realities'
Even as Sport Singapore officials yesterday painted a rosy picture of Team Singapore's prospects at future major competitions after a successful SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur last month, two underperforming sports came under fire again.
In response to questions from the media, SportSG chief Lim Teck Yin pulled no punches when asked how the national sports agency hopes to lift the flagging fortunes of athletics and football.
On Singapore Athletics (SA), which has been mired by infighting over the past year, Lim said a "shake-up" was imminent.
He said: "SA needs to take a hard look and put its differences aside and figure out together with its affiliates how they're going to put in place a leadership that will take us somewhere.
"The fragmentation doesn't just occur at the management committee level, it also exists at different levels within the ecosystem and they need to be addressed quite deliberately.
"Now that the SEA Games are over... there are some difficult conversations in the weeks ahead, and there are going to be some strong positions that we would have to take with regard to continued funding.
"I think a shake-up is on the cards."
SportSG has withheld funding from the athletics body because it failed to produce a convincing multi-year sports plan.
Singapore's track and field athletes won just two out of the 45 events in Kuala Lumpur, with marathoner Soh Rui Yong and high jumper Michelle Sng the only gold medallists.
The infighting within SA's management committee even prompted the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) to set up a major Games preparation committee to take charge of the athletes' preparations for the SEA Games.
Asked if SportSG may step in if SA still doesn't sort out its leadership issues, Lim said: "The right to initiate the (committee) was SNOC's mandate.
"Obviously we would be supportive of any effort to make sure that athletes are not unnecessarily affected by management or leadership issues."
In the case of football, Lim said it was important the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) "manages current realities", which include a possible reduction in funding as well as significant changes to the ecosystem.
The New Paper reported over the past week that the Tote Board was poised to significantly reduce funding for the next S.League season.
The Singapore Under-22 team's performance at the SEA Games - they were knocked out at the group stage after losses to Myanmar and Malaysia - has also prompted a relook at the youth development programmes.
The disbandment of the Garena Young Lions, set up in 2002 so that youngsters can have more playing opportunities in the S.League, has also been mooted by some.
Lim, who said that "youth development is going to be key", added that he has communicated with the FAS' top brass frequently.
"We've been having several conversations and meetings with the FAS council," he said.
"We're going through a period of an exchange of views so that I understand their concerns and thoughts on how Singapore football should succeed.
"I recognise that even as they are trying to put in place change, they need to manage current realities and an ecosystem.
"It's not starting from a blank sheet. We can draw up and conceptualise on a blank sheet, but when you transition, it's not so straightforward."