Exclusive: The Singaporean aiming to boost Thai football

A former member of the Football Association of Singapore and Asian Football Confederation, Benjamin Tan is now putting his stamp on Thai football. Here he tells FourFourTwo his goals, his thoughts on referees and his hope for the S.League...

1. Benjamin, thank you for joining us. Can you tell us how you ended up taking the job in Thailand?

I share the same vision and dream that Thai football wants to be one of the best in Asia

BT: I joined the FA of Thailand after the election of the new FA President [Somyot Poompanmoung, elected February, 2016]. It was the energy, drive and belief which the leader had with his new management team which meant it was not difficult for me to join them.

It is indeed heart-warming to be back this time and work closely with them to achieve their objectives. I am really humbled and at the same time grateful by the exciting offer and opportunity to deliver an exciting league and develop Thai football.

For me, I share the same vision and dream that Thai football wants to do well and be one of the best in Asia.

2. How much did you know about Thai football before you took the job and what is your perspective of Thai football?

BT: I remembered many years ago, the Thai league and Sports Authority of Thailand officials came to Singapore for observation trips in the early years of the S.League. During the same time, the top Thai players played professional football in the S.League back then. I was then with the FAS and showed the Thai officials around.

During my time with the AFC a few years back, I was part of a Professional Football Project Team, which inspected Asia’s top professional leagues such as the J-League and K-League, in order for top clubs to fulfill the criteria to participate in the AFC Champions League, which the AFC was revamping.

I was particularly impressed with the Thai Premier League on how it evolved over the years.  

Tan is tasked to bring the Thai league to higher heights

3. What are your actual day-to-day duties?

I’m the Deputy CEO of the Premier League of Thailand (PLT) as well as the FA Director of Club Licensing. I have been tasked to oversee and supervise the league management and operations of the PLT.

I will also work together with the league to produce commercially attractive content, such as a highly competitive league for stakeholders and increase fan engagement, to implement good governance and professional administrative standards, to ensure the utmost integrity and fairness at all levels and to leverage on football as a force for social good.

I’m currently doing a four-year strategic plan for Thai football. This is a very important step

In addition, I will also oversee the implementation and achievement of objectives of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and FA Thailand (FAT)’s club licensing system, in safeguarding the credibility and integrity of national and continental competitions.

I hope with my knowledge and experience I can, together with the FAT and PLT management, improve Thai national teams and club football.

4. What projects are you focusing on right now and what are the most difficult tasks in the short term?

I’m currently doing a four-year strategic plan for Thai football together with the FAT. This is a very important step to set and meet our vision and mission for the next four years, which includes all aspects of football.

For the league, football without fans is nothing.  We need to continuously look for ways to increase attendance and ensure fans get great value from football, with quality engagement. It’s also about giving returns to sponsors who have invested in the sport.

There are also many foreigners staying in Thailand and tourists. The league should be international and reach out to them as well as overseas fans, including Thais abroad.  This can be done with initiatives such as having the website and social media in one of the world’s top three languages – English.

The difficult thing right now is to convince people that English language is an important platform to promote Thai football through the FA, league, club and players.