FAS announce slew of S.League changes as part of long-term aim to improve Singapore's lowly ranking

The Football Association of Singapore (FAS) announced on Monday a series of changes for the 2018 S.League season, including the widely reported requirement on the number of under-23 players as well as a reduction in the number of imports... 

By increasing the number of promising players competing in the league, we believe we will be able to boost the development of their skills

- Lim Kia Tong

Each S.League team, apart from the Young Lions, Albirex Niigata and Brunei DPMM, will be required to have at least six under-23 players and eight under-30 players in the squad, with the remaining players to be of any age.

S.League champions Albirex Niigata, on the other hand, have agreed to register half a team of under-23 players and half a team of under-21 players, with only one player in the squad to be of any age.

The FAS confirmed that the club is also looking to sign local Singaporean players.

DPMM are still in discussions with the FAS on the competition rules that apply to them.

"We are working our youth philosophy into the rules of the league. By increasing the number of promising players competing in the professional league, we believe that we will be able to boost the development of their footballing skills and develop a professional mindset early on in their career," said FAS president Lim Kia Tong at a press conference.

Albirex will field a team consisting of almost all youth players

"These competition rules are a necessary initiative for the current climate and the FAS will periodically review these rules. It is crucial that the implementation of these changes requires the collaborative effort of the FAS and the clubs."

FAS deputy president Bernard Tan also refuted suggestions that the new ruling will deny players over the age of 30 a chance to continue their careers. 

The first under-23 player to be substituted has to be replaced by a fellow under-23 player if the substitution is made in the first half

Tan stated that last season the league had 26 players over the age of 30 and, even with these new regulations, there will be more than enough spots for all of them to continue playing.

It also will be mandatory for three of the under-23 players to be fielded at all times for the duration of matches. 

According to the new changes, If any of these three under-23 players are substituted in the first half, the first replacement must be like-for-like. After the first under-23 player is substituted, any player can replace the remaining under-23 players.

In line with the intention to develop local talent, there will also be less import players in the league. Each side will only be allowed to sign two foreigners, of any age - one less than last season. 

Fitness will be key in the revamped S.League

The nine teams that make up the league are set to remain, despite some current sit-out clubs eyeing a return to the domestic scene.

"There are certain suggestions made by sit-out clubs to come back into the fold of the S.League, so we are looking into that," said Lim. "There are three sit-out clubs, Woodlands Wellington, Gombak and Tanjong Pagar, two of whom have made some overtures to come back.

"We have to study the proposals quite seriously and more particularly, the overtures come at a very late stage, when we have already negotiated with the funders of the league."