Singapore sells naming rights to U23 team

SINGAPORE, Jan 27 (Reuters) - Singapore's plan to inject both cash and professionalism into its domestic football league took a fresh twist on Thursday when the city-state sold the naming rights of its own Under-23 national team.

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

In what was described as a major milestone for 'Project Tribe', officials announced the team would, with immediate effect, be known as the Courts Young Lions to reflect a sponsorship deal with electronics retailer Courts.

The project aims to establish stronger links between soccer fans and local clubs.

The S.League has been struggling with dwindling attendances and a lack of interest and officials have been coming up with ways to give the game a boost such as scheduling fixtures in the afternoon to avoid clashing with televised matches of the more popular English Premier League.

"I think there is probably more money expended in marketing the (Premier League) in one minute than in the S.League in 12 months," Project Tribe's Ian Mullane told Reuters, adding that they were not trying to compete with English football.

"That would be mammoth to take on by any stretch."

Courts will commit S$1 million ($781,402) over a period of two years, during which its logo will be emblazoned across the front of the Young Lion's jerseys and stadium.

The new logo was unveiled in the VIP box overlooking the team's home ground at Jalan Besar to a handful of media representatives.

"The S.League needs as much support as possible from Singapore's private sector to continue development and will ultimately benefit from more corporate involvement," said FAS President Zainudin Nordin.