Let’s be honest… Singapore’s football system is in shambles. The national team is dropping to all-time lows in the FIFA world rankings, attendance for the local S-League is very low and the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) is in chaos behind the scenes.
However I remain hopeful for the future of Singaporean football with there being a new council leading the FAS. I hope to see the S-League return to its glory days and for Singapore to have a place in the world’s footballing map. If a country like Iceland with a population of around 300,000 can form one of the best football teams in the world, I don’t see why Singapore can’t. First things first, we need to revamp the S-League.
The New S-League
There are currently 9 teams competing in the S-League. Two of which, Brunei DPMM and Albirex Niigata, are comprised completely of players that are not Singaporean. The Young Lions team also only accepts players under the age of 23. The other 6 teams are Balestier Khalsa, Geylang International, Home United, Hougang United, Tampines Rovers, and Warriors. I propose that the S-League comprise of only 8 teams and for a second division to be created which would also consist of another 8 teams. This would allow a promotion/relegation structure to be in place to create a more exciting S-League season with higher stakes.
However we also need a league that represents the Singaporean community and have teams that various constituencies can support. To do so, we would need to remove both Brunei DPMM and Albirex Niigata from the league.
The two teams that originated from Singapore’s National Defence Forces, Home United and Warriors, need to reform their ties with the Police and Army respectively. The cruical years of 17–22 are the critical period in a football player’s development. So top players identified can serve their National Service by playing for these teams. I will talk more about this further down.
The Young Lions should be disbanded as they are only proving detrimental to the development of local football. Young players need to be provided with opportunities to play with more experienced players and the Young Lions team would not allow them to develop and grow as footballers. This in turn would reduce the talent pool for Singapore’s national team causing our national football to suffer as well.
4 of the other active teams that I suggest to be in the first division would be S-League stalwarts Tampines Rovers, Geylang International, Hougang United and Balestier Khalsa. These 4 clubs have had a long history with Singaporean football and so deserve to continue to compete at the highest level of football.
Two more teams would need to be formed. One can be in the Ang Mo Kio-Bishan area which is lacking a team to support and could locate itself at Bishan Stadium. Another team can be in the west. Gombak United the more successful team from the western area could reform and play at Gombak Stadium.
Balestier Khalsa would continue to play at Toa Payoh stadium, Geylang International at Bedok Stadium, Hougang United at Hougang Stadium and Tampines Rovers at the new Tampines Town Hub. Home United and Warriors could relocate to Jurong West Stadium and Jalan Besar Stadium respectively.
The Second Division
For the second division of S-League, the current Prime League can be converted into Division 2.
Two teams can retain their reserve teams in the prime league — Home United and Warriors. The first team of both teams can include non-National Servicemen in their teams but the reserve teams can only accept National Servicemen in their teams. Both teams can recruit National Servicemen with football talent to take part in these teams during their National Service term and they can be promoted to the main team upon the completion of their National Service term. However, both of these teams would not be allowed to promoted to the main division and would remain in Division 2.
6 more teams would have to be formed and we can base these teams in stadiums that are not currently being used by other football teams. The stadiums are: Queenstown Stadium, Woodlands Stadium, Jurong Stadium, Choa Chu Kang Stadium, Clementi Stadium and Yishun Stadium.
Tanjong Pagar United can return to Queenstown Stadium, while Jurong FC can make use of Jurong Stadium so as to provide a team for those living in the Jurong Industrial Area to support. Woodlands Wellington which currently plays in the Island Wide League after leaving the S-League can also be placed in Division 2 and play at their old stomping grounds at Woodlands Stadium. If we want to bring back Woodlands Wellington, it is only right that Sembawang Rangers be brought back too so as to reignite the Woodlands-Sembawang rivalry. The Rangers could play at Yishun Stadium.
Two new teams could be formed to play at Clementi Stadium and Choa Chu Kang Stadium to provide football teams in the area with a team to support.
Promotion and Relegation System
One of the most interesting aspects of major European Leagues is the promotion and relegation system that they have as it really raises the stakes when it comes to games. For the Singapore league, the bottom two teams in S-League can be relegated while the top two teams in division 2 can be promoted.
In order for there to be greater fan support, fans need to have a real stake in the club itself. One country where this has happened is Germany where all clubs are at least 51% fan owned (on paper at least). A similar system can be created in Singapore where fans can buy stakes on clubs and become part-time owners. Fans would become more involved with the team, being able to be involved in key decisions that need to be made. Hopefully this would allow for fan support to rise. Private corporations or individuals can own the other 49% so as to pump capital into maintaining the club.
Singaporeans are also very busy people and having these games on weekdays is helping no one. Most are too busy to go out and watch the games. Instead, games can be held on the weekends between 2pm-6pm. This would allow Singaporean football fans to catch the game live at the stadiums before going home to watch European football later on in the day.
A Focus on Youth
All teams would be required to have a minimum number of under-21 players in their 22 man squad at all times. This would encourage teams to provide oppurtunities to youngsters and give them the opportunity to play alongside more established and experienced older players. This would really allow for these players to grow and develop and in doing so would grow our national team in the long run.
In order to remain Singaporean player oriented, each team would only be allowed to sign a maximum of 5 foreign players. These foreign players would provide the much required boost to local players by teaching them new skills and knowledge. Such a policy is currently in place and I beleive it should be continued.
The problems plaguing the Singapore football system are very complex and it would definitely take time for it to return to its glory days. However, we have to act now so as to save Singapore’s national sport.