Cash incentives for S-League clubs

SINGAPORE - Singapore's football chiefs are throwing money at their domestic clubs in a bid to breathe new life into their ailing S-League.

The Singapore Football Association (FAS) will pump 40% more cash subsidies into their 12 professional clubs - and offer up to 100 percent more in performance-based subsidies.

"The increase in funding is to assist clubs to strengthen their financial position, raise the clubs' management capabilities, attract more quality players, intensify their community engagement and enhance clubs' youth development programmes," FAS President Zainudin Nordin said.

Singapore's S-League, launched in 1996, has always struggled to escape the shadow of the hugely popular televised English Premier League.

Its average attendances have bobbled around the 2,000 mark with last season's average just 1,417, according to local media.

A number of measures have already been introduced to boost the local game's popularity including scheduling domestic fixtures in the heat of the afternoon to let fans get home and switch on the television to watch English football.

Earlier this year the city-state sold the naming rights of its own U23 national team to electronic retailer Courts.

The Young Lions, set up by the FAS in 2003, are the world's only age-restricted football team competing in a professional league.

Already under the sponsorship scheme football greats Pele and Eric Cantona have visited the U23 team in Singapore.

FAS chief Nordin said on Tuesday the additional funding was aimed at boosting all aspects of Singaporean professional football.

"Ultimately, the additional funding should lead to more competitive teams in the league and better match day experience and entertainment value for our fans," he said.

"This will in turn increase the number of supporters turning up at the stadiums. Fans are the heartbeat of Singapore football. Their support is critical and remains a vital component in the development, progress and success of Singapore football."

Last year each S-League club received cash and performance-based subsidies of up to S$549,000 (£268,269).

The news of the increase was immediately welcomed by one club.

"We appreciate the relentless efforts of the FAS President and his management team in securing the additional funding for the clubs, which is crucial in strengthening our financial position and assisting us to reach the next phase of our growth and development," S. Thavaneson, vice chairman of Balestier Khalsa FC, said.

"The onus is now on us to utilise this additional financial support to bring our club to the next level and deliver the KPIs (key performance indicators), including an enhanced football experience for our fans.