A democratic FAS is good, but G influence is still needed

Sep 19, 2016 01.00PM |

by Khalis Rifhan

THE upcoming Football Association of Singapore’s (FAS) annual general meeting (AGM) on 24 September will be closely watched as the body votes to make changes to their constitution ahead of their scheduled election of office bearers before the end of the year.

On Thursday, FAS confirmed that their proposed changes to their constitution have been approved by FIFA, the world governing body for football. Of the key changes, the president and eight other council members will be elected on a slate and, in order to widen the pool of potential candidates, there will be six individual slots for election into the council, bringing the total number of elected members to 15.

Venga’s commitment to Singapore’s football

Until now nobody knows exactly who will be running. No individuals have formally thrown their names into the hat for FAS’ top post, but former Woodlands Wellington manager R. Vengadasalam, often caricatured as the “opposition” in local football, has been actively campaigning on behalf of his team. He has only unveiled lawyer Alfred Dodwell and freelance football consultant Ronnie Lee on the slate so far. The ‘Mouth of the North’, as he was known during his days at Woodlands Wellington, presented his team’s manifesto a week ago in a meeting with representatives from the National Football League and the Island Wide League.

While Venga has a very colourful and controversial character, I can personally vouch for his commitment and passion for football as it was he who introduced me to football administration. I had the opportunity to work with him at a local privately-run football academy.

Although some of his comments and his history of poor discipline on the field may not sit well with certain quarters of the football fraternity, I would not question nor doubt his sincerity in wanting to bring positive change to Singapore football. But with his storied past, will he be an asset or a liability to his team?

A misguided accusation

How and when did all this commotion about wanting a ‘free’ and ‘democratic’ election process begin? This issue was brought up by several opposition politicians during the last General Election, accusing the Government and the People’s Action Party (PAP) of meddling with the affairs of the FAS. This accusation held water with the public as Mr Zainudin Nordin was still a PAP MP when he became FAS president.

I feel that those who are calling for the Government not to be influential in the sports scene are misguided. Government support is crucial in ensuring a stable progression of sports in Singapore. In my decade of working in sports media-related organisations and politics, I have had numerous interactions with athletes and officials from various National Sports Associations (NSAs). Never once did I heard them telling me that the Government is a nuisance in the industry. Instead, they applaud the readiness and willingness of our Members of Parliament to coming forward and helm NSAs.

The presence of politicians in NSAs does not mean that the Government is interfering with how the associations are being managed. Those who tout this hyperbole are just creating fear out of either frustrations or anger towards the Government. And this fear has been propagated by irresponsible individuals and groups with no substantial evidence of any wrongdoing in FAS or the Government.

G’s support crucial for success

While we need to prevent any political influence in any sports association, we must not forget that is it also essential to have Government support. We must not be mistaken between support by the ruling party and government interference. There has never been any interference in the way sports associations are being run in Singapore.

Rather, what we have seen over the last decades is sincere and pragmatic support by various Government agencies, ministers and the government towards building a sporting nation, and pave the way for athletes to succeed in the region and on the international stage.

The future of football in Singapore lies with various stakeholders and that includes support not only from the Government but also the fans. Thus we need an FAS president that is able to build healthy working relationships with all stakeholders and not someone who bangs the table whenever decisions don’t go their way. We need a leader in FAS that can think calmly the right way forward for football in Singapore and not someone who uses threats to bulldoze their ideas through at a meeting table.

My only hope for the upcoming FAS AGM and the election congress is that we see a healthy discourse from and between all potential candidates. This signals a new dawn for Singapore football with its first democratic election.

But should the upcoming FAS elections leave no room at all for the incumbents, it could destabilise the association and football as a whole in Singapore. With that, I wish a productive AGM for FAS and for the members to approve the proposed constitution so that the new team can be elected before the end of the year.


Khalis Rifhan is the former Editor of VoxSports and former Operations Manager of Sunset + Vine Asia (Digital). He began his sports journalism career as a freelancer in 2012 with S.League.com and Goal.com Singapore. In that same year, he was awarded the Best Reporter by Goal.com Asia. Khalis now runs his own digital media company, Ortus Media Pte Ltd and is studying Business and Law.


Featured image from TMG file.

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