June 25, 2017

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by Bertha Henson

IT WAS bound to happen. With news of the millions Tiong Bahru FC amassed from its fruit machines, there have been calls to keep these one-armed bandits confined to the two casinos.

Yet, there are more than 100 clubs – whether it is an NTUC Club or an exclusive country club – which has such misleadingly-named gambling contraptions. And you don’t have to pay a $100 entrance fee to get into the premises.

What you have to do, though, is be a member of said club or society. That’s because the machines are supposed to be “private’’, under the Private Lotteries Act. Located in the basement of People’s Park Centre, with 29 machines, Tiong Bahru FC has more than 18,000 members, according to its latest annual returns filed with the Registry of Societies, as reported by The Straits Times (April 23).

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Given that Tiong Bahru FC reported S$36.8 million in total revenue in the last financial year, that works out to roughly S$1.27 million for each machine, or just over S$100,000 per machine each month. That’s plenty of arm muscle or finger pressing every day in the club.

A check through newspaper reports showed that clubs view them as a big attraction. There’s the National University of Singapore Society Clubhouses, Singapore Cricket Club, Changi Swimming Club, Changi Airport Recreation Club and Keppel Club. NTUC Club has several jackpot rooms all over Singapore, in places such as Ang Mo Kio, Bedok, Tanjong Pagar and Pasir Ris.

Of course, the G exacts its pound of flesh by imposing 9.5 per cent of annual gross turnover. This was put in place in 2011 because, gulp!, clubs said that an earlier proposed 12 per cent duty was too high now that casinos have surfaced in Singapore.

Casinos don’t seem to have affected the clubs’ takings equally. In fact, according to Business Times, the Automobile Association of Singapore had S$4.27 million in 2015, up from S$3.39 million the previous year. It has about the same number of machines as Tiong Bahru FC. So while revenue is growing, its takings are small beer compared to what the football club is raking in.

And this brings us to the question of just what those jackpot machines do for Singapore football – besides minting money. Tiong Bahru FC’s Bill Ng of the $500,000 donation fame, has always made no bones about his financial model for football.

He did the same to Hougang United FC and both clubs can afford to thumb their noses at any subsidy the Football Association of Singapore can funnel. Most S. League clubs operate on an annual budget of between $1.2 million and $1.5 million, and cannot do without the $800,000 annual subsidy.

“The public has to understand that we do not have any other source of revenue at this juncture. Hence the success of jackpot operations is critical,” he told TNP in October last year.

“This is the only artificial revenue that we can rely on at the moment. Any club with an eye towards financial self-sustainability must be prepared to look for alternative revenue streams as we may have to phase it out in the next five years.”

What the jackpot earnings have been spent on now appears to be the subject of police questioning. Besides monthly accounts and yearly audits, it isn’t clear what stipulations were put forth when the clubs obtained their licence to install fruit machines. At the very least, the club should be expected to use the revenue for its own purposes and in its own interest.

If so, it gives rise to the question of whether it is alright for $500,000 to be drawn from the Tiong Bahru FC account for the Asean Football Federation to build a Football Management System.

Mr Ng’s “jackpot” modus operandi is not without detractors who object to using gambling as a way to finance football. That was what Tampines Rovers chairman Krishna Ramachandra said last year about depending on an activity that has been known to wipe out the life savings of retirees.

There is, therefore, a moral issue here, and given the amounts amassed by Tiong Bahru FC, it would be safe to say that the punters aren’t there because they like football. In fact, its 18,000 members is significantly more than the 600 members of Geylang International FC, an S. League club. Another S. League club Balestier Khalsa’s 1,000-plus members also pales in comparison to that of Tiong Bahru FC.

But high-minded words aside, Mr Ramachandra is in a bit of a pickle now because he is on Mr Ng’s Game Changers slate as vice-president. In a TNP report today (Apr 24), he focused on the use of gaming revenue rather than the act of gaming. “I think the authorities have always had very clear and extensive rules and regulations on the jackpot operations.”

“I do not see that as an issue. Ultimately, the clubs need to ensure that they utilise the profits in a responsible manner and one that furthers the mandate of that club, be it a social or recreational or sports club.”

And no, he doesn’t want any rules on fruit machines tightened.

The FAS saga has opened a whole can of worms – both legal and moral.

 

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By Bertha Henson

SO MANY accusations left hanging in the air. Allegations of financial impropriety and other shenanigans – all left unsaid. What are we to make of the statements of protagonists in the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) saga and the police action? Everybody’s been coy about joining the dots because they might not draw a pretty, and maybe even defamatory, picture. Here, however, are six points that seem the subject of contention:

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a. That $500,000 donation
It was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. Mr Bill Ng’s claim that this donation in 2014 intended for local football went instead to supporting the Asean Football Federation (AFF) led to an escalation of tensions between past and contending challengers for the council.

Did he know or not know? General secretary Winston Lee produced documentary evidence that he did but Mr Ng then said that Mr Lee coerced him into signing the letter and putting it on his club letterhead.

Was ex-FAS president Mr Zainudin Nordin involved in asking him for the donation? Mr Ng said it was Mr Lee but an acknowledgement letter was addressed to Mr Zainudin. Sport Singapore has asked for an audit of such large donations. Both Mr Zainudin and Mr Ng seem to be good friends. Mr Ng even asked the ex-MP to chair Tiong Bahru Football Club (FC) when he stepped down from the FAS earlier this year. He declined the offer as he was given a post of Deputy Principal (Development) at ITE College.

b. Whose money is it anyway?

It appeared to have come from Tiong Bahru FC which Mr Ng owns, going by the cheques signed. It went to the FAS which passed it to the AFF. Now why this sum had to go through the good offices of the FAS is another question. Why not a direct donation?

c. So what if FAS was the channel?

If so, how is it that other council members seem to have no knowledge of such a large donation, which amounts to half of what could be used to run a football club? Is this a sign that the old establishment, as so many in the fraternity had alleged, is elitist and secretive? Mr Zainudin, president since 2009, only held council meetings four times a year unlike his predecessor Associate Prof Ho Peng Kee, who did so once a month.

d. How did Tiong Bahru come to have so much money anyway?

The club has 29 jackpot machines on its premises which rake in about $37 million last year, more than the $35.8 million FAS budget. Those machines aren’t illegal and appeared to be Mr Ng’s chief method of turning around ailing clubs. The corporate had experience in gaming operations, having set up a casino in Cambodia. According to TODAY, the club paid its 15 employees S$2.073 million in salaries last year and put in an additional S$528,000 for staff training, uniforms and staff welfare. But spending on its football team was a more modest S$169,000.

His other two clubs, Hougang United and Woodlands Wellington, also have jackpot machines although not of the same number. In 2014, Hougang United made a $2million profit and Mr Ng made a point of returning the FAS its $800,000 subsidy.

e. So if it’s not illegal, then what’s the problem?

There are questions about an audit during the saga of Hougang United and Woodlands Wellington intending to merge in 2014 which was later ruled as unconstitutional. In March 2016, however, Sport Singapore ordered FAS to do an audit on the merger and clubs sitting out of the S. League. This is, apparently, still on-going. It also told Woodlands Wellington, which is sitting out of the S. League, to cease making money from the machines and move out of the premises.

f. Does the saga have anything to do with Mr Ng’s companies?

He founded private equity firm Financial Frontiers and is a director of six companies.

ST reported that in his company’s portfolio is an ESW Manage, which is a sponsor of Hougang United, and also had Mr Zainudin Nordin and Woodlands Wellington chairman Gary Tan as directors. It might not be a surprise that those in the football fraternity have commercial ties but there is the issue of whether proper disclosure of interests was made to relevant parties.

Mr Ng’s wife Bonnie Wong is the listed owner of Polygon Ventures, landlord of the Tiong Bahru club’s 2,583 square foot premises in the basement of People’s Park Centre. The club pays rent of about $80,000 a month or $31 per square feet. TODAY’s checks showed that other basement units in People’s Park Centre are charging between S$2.92 and S$11.23 per square foot in rent. The only unit charging S$31.50 per square foot in rent is located at street level, and measures only 200 square foot.

Nobody’s drawing any links in the above except to state the facts. Clearly, Mr Ng had been under some auditing pressure even before he threw his hat into the FAS electoral ring. So is he trying to obstruct the process as he has been alleged to?

Let’s wait for the next match.

 

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GERMAN police are on the hunt for a brazen attacker. Officers comb a quiet street turned crime scene late on Tuesday (April 11) after a bus carrying the Borussia Dortmund football team was hit by three explosions.

The devices were planted in bushes on the side of the road, near the players’ hotel in what police say was a deliberate assault on players and staff.

Dortmund police chief Gregor Lange said, “We assumed from the start that the blast was a targeted attack on the Borussia Dortmund team. That is why we immediately activated the emergency plan to put all available police forces on duty.”

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The players were on their way to a home match against Monaco when their bus was struck, smashing several windows.

Spanish defender Marc Bartra has been hospitalised and is undergoing surgery on his hand.

The attack sending shock waves through the European football community.

Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone said in Spanish, “I’ve nothing really to say. I’m speechless. I’m just concerned.”

Many fans were already at the club’s ground when word of the blast reached them.

The stadium announcing that the game had been called off and will now be played on Wednesday (April 12) night.

-Reuters

 

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LIKE that oil spill from the ship collision – it’s hit land, mostly around Changi Beach and Pulau Ubin. An 800m stretch of Changi Beach had to be closed for cleanup operations. Three fish farms have been asked by the AVA to stop selling their produce.

The Tote Board is moving its funds for the Football Association of Singapore to be administered by SportSG. While it is not unusual for SportSG to administer funding to National Sports Associations, this is unusual for football, which has always been funded directly by the Tote Board.

Why? Could it be the association’s dismal performance? Slipping to a miserable 171 ranking in October last year hardly inspires confidence. Is it fears over a possible team Venga win? The long-time critic of the football establishment is mounting a leadership challenge; is he expected to win? Does the Tote Board lack confidence in a team Venga leadership?

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Good news if you’re buying, bad news if you’re selling. HDB resale prices slipped by 0.3 per cent in December 2016 compared to November’s numbers. Volumes were down 12.6 per cent. No cooling measure changes in sight.

Moving on up, Mr Ong Ye Kung has been co-opted to the PAP central executive committee and has been made an organising secretary. That’s a big step up for the newcomer and signals leadership renewal as he takes the place of Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen.

Ministers Gan Kim Yong and Chan Chun Sing are the other two organising secretaries.

Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli and MPs Sitoh Yih Pin (Potong Pasir) and Murali Pillai (Bukit Batok) were also co-opted to the central executive committee.

 

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by Wan Ting Koh

THIS year may have been a turbulent one for politics, but for the local sports fraternity, the year has been no less fraught with highs and lows.

No less than six sports have made the spotlight for reasons other than sporting achievements. In fact, some made the headlines for in-fighting, others for bad blood between management and players, and yet others for possible criminal activities.

Talk about bad sportsmanship – off the field.

 

1. Table Tennis

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Image Women’s World Cup Table Tennis by Flickr user cm yong

 

The Singapore Table Tennis Association (STTA) axed two of its most illustrious players this year. One due to disciplinary issues and the other – according to an official statement – due to long-terms plans to inject new blood into the team.

National player Li Hu was sacked in October after an STTA disciplinary investigation found that Li, whose top achievements include winning a men’s doubles gold with veteran Gao Ning at the 2015 SEA Games, had continually violated house rules.

The 28-year-old brought his girlfriend to his dormitory on several occasions even after being warned against it. The Hubei native also has a whole host of other disciplinary issues and is currently assisting with investigations by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau for his mother’s alleged bribery attempt.

Barely a day after Li Hu was cut from the team, national paddler Feng Tianwei too was dropped. The three-time Olympic Medallist was axed from the STTA, with the association announcing that Feng didn’t fit into STTA’s “plans for rejuvenation”. That was the official reason.

Unofficially, sources alleged the 28-year-old had been fired for misconduct, ill-discipline and disrespect. The paddler was said to have had disagreements with the association over prize money and to have made false claims. STTA’s deputy vice president David Sim took to his own Facebook page to call Feng a “disgrace to the nation” and “bad egg” in comments with users. Read our story here and here.

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2. F1

F1

Image F1 by Flickr user Yuki Shimazu

 

The fate of the Formula One (F1) Singapore Grand Prix after next year’s race is hanging in the balance as its chief executive Bernie Ecclestone said in November that Singapore might not extend its deal past next year.

That was not all he said though. The 86-year-old Briton added: “Singapore was suddenly more than just an airport to fly to or from somewhere. Now they believe they have reached their goal and they do not want a grand prix any more.”

Reaching its goal might not be the only reason Singapore wouldn’t ink another deal for the F1. The race has also been suffering from dropping ticket sales, with this year’s numbers the lowest since F1 came to Singapore in 2008. This year’s grand prix also experienced a 15 per cent drop in attendance.

Mr Ecclestone later claimed he was misquoted, saying that he is hopeful discussions on keeping the race in Singapore will be “sorted out”.

 

3. Football

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Image Malaysia Vs Singapore by Flickr user Phalinn Ooi

Perhaps the most public example of long-term internal strife within a governing body. A host of problems have plagued the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) for years, the most recent being Singapore’s defeat in the AFF Suzuki Cup by Indonesia.

Said to be the worst-ever showing at the Suzuki Cup, the Lion’s performance resulted in netizens calling for the termination of the team’s head coach, whose strategy was to play on the defensive. However, the coach was only appointed in May this year.

A TODAY report said that the Lion’s plight only highlights the problems with Singapore’s footballing ecosystem, especially in the area of domestic football. Criticisms have been levelled at FAS for its neglect of grassroots development, with the lower leagues getting its funds cut even though the FAS budget is burgeoning.

To top off the bad showing, a brawl broke out this October during an FAS-organised tournament, interrupting a match between Balestier United Recreation Club and Singapore Armed Forces Sports Association. The match was never completed.

 

4. Track and Field

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Image Athletics at the 2010 Summer Youth Olympics at Bishan Stadium, Singapore, on 23 August 2010 by Flickr user Jack at Wikipedia

 

In June, a coach was suspended after allegations of molest towards three female athletes. The governing body for track and field, Singapore Athletics (SA), said that on one of the occasions, the coach allegedly improperly touched an athlete during a session working with gym weights. A police report was filed.

In a separate August report, SA’s vice-president for competitions organising Loh Chan Pew took a leave of absence to assist with police investigations. His move came after a police report was filed against him for allegedly molesting a former national athlete in 2010. This happened just 38 days after Mr Loh was elected unopposed to the position at the SA’s Annual General Meeting in June.

That’s not all the problems SA faces. Earlier in December, it was reported that SA could lose its funding for the hire of a key secretariat staff, general manager Jaime Cheong, as it did not consult Sport Singapore on the appointment.

 

5. Shooting

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Image from Singapore Shooting Association Facebook page

 

The Singapore Rifle Association (SRA) was booted from the national shooting body, the Singapore Shooting Association (SSA) last week, after the association’s three other members voted at the extraordinary general meeting. The SSA said that the SRA “no longer has the best interest of the shooting fraternity at heart, and adjudges it as an organisation that is not in good standing with SSA”.

The SSA added that the SRA consistently expressed disagreement on key issues and “persistently undermined the SSA’s work as the national shooting authority” over the past 18 months.

Some six months before it was expelled, the SRA filed a High Court suit against the SSA over alleged breaches of the SSA constitution and for attempting to suspend its privileges. The SRA is also taking SSA’s president Michael Vaz, to court for defamation.

 

6. Baseball

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Image from The Hit Factory website

 

Last month, a private baseball facility shut down abruptly, leaving 71 children who had paid for classes, and staff, high and dry. Called The Hit Factory (THF), the facility had a dispute with the Singapore Baseball and Softball Association (SBSA).

According to parents, emails from THF said that it had no viable way of staying in business without a facility as it could not sell programmes for next year. THF added that it would not able to refund the fees of approximately $200,000 for six months of unfulfilled programmes. It had to declare bankruptcy after raking up $20,000 in debt.

When contacted by TODAY, one of THF’s owners, Mr Michael Froemke, blamed the closure to their dispute with the SBSA. THF was informed by SBSA in September that it would have to leave the field by the end of this year as Sport Singapore would be reclaiming the venue.

Even though SBSA told THF that the association had been granted an extension till March 31, THF said that its weekend lease hours would be significantly reduced, so it was unable to continue.

 

 

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FOR almost 24 hours, many Singtel fibre broadband users were unable to access the Internet after a service outage. The problem started at around 8.45am on Saturday morning, and in an update on its Facebook page the telco said the service disruption was not due to a DDoS or a distributed denial of service attack, but the inability of its servers to assign IP addresses – codes which help computers to communicate to one another – to the modems of customers so as to enable broadband connectivity. In further updates this morning at 1.30am and 7am, respectively, Singtel added that about 20 and 80 per cent of its fibre broadband services have been restored.

Throughout the day, frustrated consumers left angry comments on the Facebook page, even though the telco announced that its post-paid mobile subscribers – who are also fibre broadband subscribers, or have the same billing address as the fibre broadband subscriber – will have their mobile data waived.

Across the Causeway, as the search for the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 entered its 1,000th day yesterday, relatives of the 239 passengers who were on board are now trying to push governments to expand the search along the East African coast, where pieces of debris have previously been found. These relatives are starting their own endeavour, as the ongoing search led by an Australian team is expected to be suspended by the end of this year. The high cost involved and the need for a strategy appear to be considerations. “After repeated attempts and repeated requests for a mobilisation of a search along the coastline, nothing has been done,” a spokesperson for support group Voice 370 explained. “So it has fallen into our own hands to take this search upon ourselves.”

In Indonesia, search and rescue operations are underway off Batam Island, after an Indonesian police plane with 15 on board crashed. The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore confirmed that the police plane had lost contact with Singapore’s air traffic control in the country’s Flight Information Region at 11.22am yesterday morning, and since then there have been no reports of any survivors. There are also no conjectures or explanations for the crash, and in the meantime the Indonesian Navy has deployed ships and patrol boats for the recovery operation.

This crash comes days after a tragic plane crash in Colombia which killed 71 people, 19 of whom were footballers of a Brazilian club. Around 120,000 people are expected to attend the funeral of these players and their coaches.

And finally, breaking with nearly four decades of delicate, diplomatic customs between the United States and Taiwan, American President-elect Donald Trump had a telephone conversation with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, leading analysts to remark that Sino-US relations in the next four years could be testy. The United States broke ties with Taiwan in 1979, after establishing diplomatic relations with China, and hence follows a “one China” policy. In response, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi characterised the call as “a petty gambit by Taiwan”, adding that “it can never change the ‘one China’ reality that has formed in international society, nor will it change the ‘one China’ policy maintained by the United States government all these years.”

 

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DAMN shame about the teacher resignation rate going up to 3 per cent (it was 2 per cent in 2000). That’s 5,000 teachers who have left the service over the last five years, mostly citing unnecessarily long work hours and stress. Tales of consistent 12-hour days are not unheard of. It doesn’t worry MOE, though, which says that the rate “remains low”.

Here’s another interesting thing – MOE has on its record that most teachers resign for “childcare, for other family considerations, and for a desire for a change of job”. But most teachers in the report cite admin hell – non-teaching tasks and processes that take up half of their 12-hour days, and the stress that comes with it. Goes to show that most departing employees will probably not tell you the whole truth about why they’re leaving.

Where do they go? Tuition, for the most part. The “shadow education” system, which was worth $1.1 billion in 2014, has seen the number of centres registered with MOE grow from 500 in 2011 to 600 now.

We will pay to school, house and clothe the stateless in Singapore – so say eight donors who stepped forward in the wake of a Today report on the plight of the stateless. Offers came forward, especially for children, so that they could have a chance to get an education and afford to live here – a noble gesture.

Primary school fees will come to $550 a month – the rate for international students charged by MOE. Stateless persons, particularly children in Singapore, are hard done by because even though they may be born and raised here, they inherit statelessness from their parents (usually the father) because of Singapore’s administrative rules. Now members of the public are stepping forward to offer these kids what the G cannot – hope for the future.

Apart from these vulnerable kids, there’s also a focus on vulnerable adults – mostly the elderly. The Adult Protective Service, which was set up in May 2015, has seen over 100 cases, 21 of which were full-fledged investigations – mostly into physical violence. The unit will get more bite early next year when the Vulnerable Adults Act gets tabled in Parliament. At the same time, an NUS study into elder abuse found that more than half involved financial exploitation. Think Yang Yin.

Shame on Singapore football. A Football Association of Singapore Cup match between Safsa and Balestier United Recreation Club ended in a brawl after the captain of Safsa, Syafiq Siraj, was chased and then assaulted in the stands. Syafiq was not playing in the match.

Videos shared online show the captain running from his assailants after Balestier has a man sent off for punching a Safsa player. Balestier players also threaten a person for taking a video of the assault. Syafiq said in a Facebook post that his mother was also assaulted and that he has made a police report. Whatever the verdict, it’s shame for Singapore football.

Mount Kinabalu has claimed another Singaporean life after a climber fell into a ravine while training for the Mount Kinabalu International Climbathon. The deceased, identified by Malaysian authorities as Mr Woon Tai Kiang, was found at the bottom of a 150m ravine near the summit after having been reported as missing. The Climbathon was due to resume on Oct 16 after having been suspended in the wake of the June 5, 2015 quake which killed 19, including nine Singaporeans.

Finally, Brexit has a timetable. British PM Theresa May announced that she will start the process formally at the end of next March and the whole thing will be completed by 2019. The UK will make a success out of it, she says, so she wants to keep proceedings low-key to avoid stray words hyped-up media reports that could mar a good deal for the UK.

 

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by Daniel Yap

AFTER the angst about how little the Football Association Of Singapore (FAS) spent on domestic grassroots leagues last year, TMG pores over the published accounts from 2009 to track the main spending trends. Are claims of under-or over-spending valid? How have things changed over the years?

FAS Finances

 

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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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by Vir Chiniwala

WITH all the talk about renowned managers and players being worth 100 million in the English Premier League (EPL), a large section of football fans are still enamoured with last season’s surprise winners, Leicester City.

But so far, the football club’s fans have been brought back down to earth after a disastrous pre-season campaign followed by an opening day loss to minnows Hull City – making it an overall one point from a possible six in the first two games of the season.

A meek beginning just adds to the pressure, especially after rival clubs have spent vast fortunes on coaching and playing staff alike to strengthen their sides. With the world keeping a close eye on Leicester, they face a daunting challenge ahead – but that’s how they like it, according to their manager Claudio Ranieri.

The veteran recently sat down with the New York Times and in his interview, the Italian spoke of the many obstacles they had to overcome. When questioned about Leicester’s chances this season, the 68-year-old quipped: “I’m the underdog. Always will be. And I love it”.

Well, this season, Ranieri has gotten his wish. Forget title favourites, Leicester don’t look likely to finish in the top six this season. And, while people may argue that this is the same situation they faced last season, the circumstances this time around couldn’t be more contrasting.

For those who don’t know, Leicester were thrust into the spotlight after emerging as champions of England’s premier footballing division with a team perceived by many to finish on the bottom rather than the top of the pile. After beating off relegation last year, they overcame adversity after adversity, including odds of 5000-1 to incredibly finish on top with a much more modest squad compared to their heavyweight counterparts.

They became an overnight sensation due to their heroics, with their players and manager deemed inferior for much of their careers. But, they shrugged off the underdog tag by the tail end of the season and their support kept growing exponentially around the world.

They scored with their star striker Jamie Vardy, who put in 24 goals – the second-highest in the league. This was a player who just a few years ago was playing amateur football and working part-time at a factory to make ends meet. Many still keep hope that after their unbelievable feat, this year the Foxes, as they’re affectionately called, will move on to bigger and brighter things.

Image Jamie Vardy by Wikimedia user Pioeb (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Image Jamie Vardy by Wikimedia user Pioeb (CC BY-SA 4.0)

The club’s first appearance in the prestigious UEFA Champions League tournament beckons while most are also hoping to see the club remain in the top circles of English football. Hopes were further boosted after star players and vital cogs of the Leicester machine, Riyad Mahrez and Vardy signed new contracts with the club this summer.

Both were extensively courted by English football giant Arsenal, and while fans feared the worst, the duo surprisingly rejected the North-London club’s advances to remain at the club that made them famous. While it is heartwarming to see these footballers show sporting loyalty and reject a bigger payday, most need to accept that Leicester won’t be gatecrashing the top-tier anytime soon.

Rival clubs have spent exorbitant amounts in the off-season on top-shelf managers and players to ensure that last season’s underdog tale remains a one-off, a mere blip in a league dominated by the richer teams. Despite winning the league, the Foxes rely more on budget acquisitions due to their inferior finances compared to the established sides.

A prime example of this is Manchester United’s recently signed player, Paul Pogba.

The transfer fees paid to sign the player was £89m (S$159.67m). That mouthwatering fee paid for one player is more than what Leicester spent on their entire title-winning squad combined. It’s not just the Manchester club though, all of Leicester’s rivals – Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham and to an extent, Arsenal have strengthened their teams.

The Foxes have just entered the spotlight, unlike their counterparts and don’t have the financial backing that these teams do. Therefore, rivals can easily blow them out of the water in the race for acquiring top players, by offering two things Leicester can’t – money and pedigree. Unable to shop in the top-tier of the transfer market has already left the Foxes playing catch-up before even looking at the deficiencies in the current squad itself.

While Mahrez and Vardy were essential to Leicester’s title charge, midfielder N’Golo Kante was equally if not more pivotal to the team, with his performances in the middle of the pitch ensuring that the more attacking players could thrive ahead of him. His interceptions and overall energy during games were vital in propelling the Foxes to the title, and Leicester legend Gary Linekar even had a fairly amusing compliment to sum up Kante’s importance to the team.

In the off-season, Kante sealed a big-money move to English rivals, Chelsea and by doing so left his former side without their heartbeat. Ranieri even went on to say that “Now we (Leicester) are crying because we lost Kante.”

The Frenchman may only be one player, but his contribution was so key to Ranieri’s side that the difference without him was quite devastating.

Their first taste of the elite (without Kante) came in pre-season, with Leicester taking part in a friendly tournament involving Spanish and French League champions, Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain (PSG). Their defence crumbled in the absence of their former player, and they were easily brushed aside by these footballing giants. While it was swept under the rug as a non-competitive game, it was the first ominous sign of the wheels coming off the Leicester train.

Fans need to see that with all the off-season factors, be it lavish spending of others or ill-timed departures of their own, Leicester have swiftly dropped out of the elite circle of clubs. Last season was a fairytale, but the party is now well and truly over.

 

Featured image LCFC lift the Premier League Trophy by Flickr user Pete Woodentop (CC By-SA 2.0).

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