S.League future up in the air after FAS meeting
There has long been dissatisfaction at the role of the LionsXII and Courts Young Lions teams in Singapore football, with many insiders feeling that the best talent has been siphoned away from the struggling local league teams.
Crowd figures, never really high to begin with apart from the heady heights achieved in the first few seasons, have plummetted in recent years with S.League fixtures lucky to draw a few hundred fans to each game.
The S.League was reduced to ten teams at the end of last season, with Tanjong Pagar United sitting out while Hougang United and Woodlands Wellington merged. This effectively means that only seven local clubs remain (with one of them being the Young Lions) to compete with three foreign sides in Albirex Niigata (S), Brunei DPMM FC and Malaysian development side Harimau Muda.
Things came to a head on Monday night at the Jalan Besar Stadium, when the unhappy club chairmen voiced their displeasure during a meeting with Football Association of Singapore officials including FAS president Zainudin Nordin and general secretary Winston Lee.
"Even our national coach (Bernd Stange) was quoted as saying he does not go to S.League games, so we told the FAS things need to change," an unnamed chairman told The Straits Times.
"We have grown tired of sourcing for sponsors and wooing fans when FAS themselves have their eyes on the LionsXII and the Asean Super League."
It is believed that the club chairmen are working on a new blueprint for the struggling league, with a plan set to be presented to Singapore Pools, the league's main backers.
Three options were discussed at the meeting, with the most drastic one involving the scrapping of the S.League to focus on teams playing in Malaysia and the mooted-ASL.
Another option was to get rid of the LionsXII and Courts Young Lions teams, while the third was to somehow include a larger number of young players and stay the course with the current S.League.
S.League CEO Lim Chin was reportedly less than happy with the last suggestion, even suggesting that he would step aside if it went ahead.
This all comes at a time when Singapore's national teams have yet to register a win at any level in 2015, with the Republic set to host the Southeast Asian Games in June.
"In the meantime, the leagues in Thailand and Malaysia are pulling away and the standards of once footballing minnows like Guam and Cambodia are catching up with ours," another unnamed chairman said.
"If these aren't enough to scream that change is needed, I don't know what is."
While Monday's debate ended inconclusively, sources have told FourFourTwo that another high-level meeting chaired by Lim Chin will be held at FAS headquarters tonight.