Even the stench of jackpots and raids won’t halt farcical FAS elections

Singapore’s ‘close one eye’ culture and an unquestioning deference to men of power and wealth left the game in a perilous state and will make it hard to clean up, argues Neil Humphreys

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Consider this plot outline for an espionage thriller.

Established political leaders are accused of wielding too much influence, having been appointed internally by government figures.

They are, in effect, promising to overthrow themselves and replace themselves … with themselves

An independent body demands change to appease the masses so elections are slowly and grudgingly organised.

Most of the incumbents promise to revolutionise an organisation that has failed its objectives, choosing to ignore the comical irony that they were all part of the failed organisation.

They are, in effect, promising to overthrow themselves and replace themselves … with themselves.

Meanwhile, an independent candidate arrives on the scene, ringing a jackpot bell and promising to clean out the cronies and sycophants. He’s made his money and reputation independently. He’s not part of the Establishment.

Only he is. 

He has secretly ‘donated’ to various causes to remain in favour with the same political heavyweights he now seeks to topple.

Winston Lee at an NFL press conference earlier this month

But he quickly gains popularity, until undercover officers raid his premises, acting on the instructions of even higher political powers after receiving a tip-off alleging wrongdoing.

The timing is impeccable, coming just days before the election.

Almost immediately, political leaders, both past and present, disassociate themselves from the independent candidate, claiming no relationship with the guy, despite documented evidence to the contrary.

Every candidate now stands beneath a cloud of uncertainty and mistrust and yet, inexplicably, the elections go ahead because that’s how political intrigue works. That’s the making of an espionage thriller.

Only it isn’t. 

It’s actually happening right now, here in Singapore, making a mockery of its global reputation for business trust and transparency by allowing a farcical election to go ahead.

Forty-four affiliates will come together at the end of the week to vote on the next council for the Football Association of Singapore (FAS), which is arguably the most pointless exercise since the chief steward rearranged the deck chairs on the Titanic for a better view of the iceberg.

Whether it’s Lim Kia Tong’s Status Quo, playing those familiar three chords over and over again in the hope that no one realises they’re essentially singing the same tune, or Bill Ng’s team of Jackpot Game Changers, little will change.

As the old song goes, no matter who you vote for, the Government always gets in. 

A revolution doomed before it begins

In this instance, no matter who wins the FAS elections, it is those men of wealth and power that will prevail.

The feigned shock over Tiong Bahru’s total revenue of $36,736,775 from its jackpot machines is tough to swallow

Add those ingredients to a nationwide indifference to the local game and it’s hard to see how the kind of revolution required to rejuvenate the sport can even take place.

That ‘close one eye’ culture has persisted for as long as the game itself, allowing match fixers, loan sharks and jackpot machine operators to thrive for decades.

Authorities have made great strides in tackling match fixing, but the influence of jackpot machines remains an uncomfortable grey area.

[NEXT: Singapore's penchant for gambling]