Analysis

'Where is the money?' Game Changer accusations against FAS continue

Football Association of Singapore (FAS) presidential hopeful Bill Ng has reiterated his stance the current administration – and particularly general secretary Winston Lee – must come clean over the use of a $500,000 donation made by Ng back in 2014.

We are part of The Trust Project What is it?

A public slanging match has erupted between the organisation and the front man of ‘Team Game Changers’ Ng in the build-up to the FAS’ first ever elections, to be held on April 29.

It started when Ng used a public forum to announce his manifesto, but the overriding story to come from that event last Thursday night was Ng’s question marks over the use of donations requested and controlled by Lee.

Winston and the FAS owe the Singapore footballing community an explanation

- Team Game Changers

Lee and the FAS responded strongly to those accusations later that evening, stating Ng was very clear where the funds had been used – namely in support of something called the ASEAN Football Federation’s (AFF) ‘Football Management System’ – and threatening legal action.

But Ng has returned fire on Monday night, releasing a long statement that included “how these funds were then used is something which only the FAS administrators can explain”.

“In light of the statements that have been made by various parties, it is the Team Game Changers’ unified and common belief that there must be full transparency and accountability in the way Singapore Football is managed and administered,” the statement began.

“Our team’s focus and plans for Singapore Football have been shared through the release of our Manifesto on 13 April.

“At the same time, it is also important that we set the record straight on a few issues, to clear any doubts that the fraternity and the public may have.”

National team players Madhu, Mustafic and Khairul at last Thursday's event

The statement seeks to clarify the funds donated under Ng’s leadership came via Tiong Bahru FC, the former Singapore Premier League club prior to the S.League and that has competed in the NFL since 2004.

Part of the issue between Ng and Lee appears to centre around the former’s dream to see Tiong Bahru FC competing back in the top tier of Singaporean football, a request that was turned down on more than one occasion.

In regards to the donation, which is at the crux of the rift, Lee had made it very clear Ng “had full knowledge” the $500,000 donation was to be given to the AFF via the FAS.

Team Game Changers, however, have stressed that is not the case.

Tiong Bahru FC had, from December 2014 onwards and at the request of Winston Lee to Bill Ng made in person, given donations totaling $500,000 to the FAS by way of various cheque payments,” the statement continues.

“We would like to reiterate that all of these cheques were made payable to the FAS.

“Having donated the funds to the FAS, how these funds were then used is something which only the FAS administrators can explain. When Bill Ng agreed to Winston’s request for a donation, it was strictly on the basis that the money was to be used to benefit Singapore football, especially our local clubs.

“Winston and the FAS owe the Singapore Footballing community an explanation.”

It then lists the following questions, among others:

  • Did the AFF ask Winston Lee for the funds, or did Winston volunteer the said funds? How many other AFF Member Associations made such donations to the AFF for the AFF Football Management System?
  • What was the reason for FAS to have made the payment of $500k to the AFF? Was it for AFF to develop a system for the FAS to use for the good of Singapore football? Or was it to fund the AFF in its purchase of a system for its own use?
  • The FAS is a Charity with Institution of Public Character (IPC) status. The rules make it very clear that any donations made by external parties must have the Board’s approval. Why was this not done before the money was channeled to an external entity?
  • How is it that the rest of the former FAS Council, like Lim Kia Tong, S Thavaneson, Bernard Tan and Edwin Tong and more, did not know that such a large donation had been received from Tiong Bahru FC, and that the funds were being channeled to the AFF?

The statement also questioned the AFF Football Management System itself, adding “even the FAS and AFF cannot satisfactorily answer what the AFF Football Management System is about till today.

“We, along with members of the football fraternity eagerly wait an answer.”

It is also absolutely ludicrous that Mr Lim Kia Tong ... is asking for Bill Ng to be open and transparent as a donor of funds

The statement is littered with inflammatory language, accusing Lee of “flip-flopping” over who initially received the funds, while blasting him for “extremely disturbing, discourteous and unfathomable” behaviour over his legal threat.

Finally the Game Changers couldn’t resist another stab at Lim Kia Tong, who is running against Ng for the FAS presidency.

“It is also absolutely ludicrous that Mr Lim Kia Tong, as a member of the former Council, is asking for Bill Ng to be open and transparent as a donor of funds,” the statement said.

“Mr Lim had a duty as a Vice-President of the FAS to ensure the effective use of funds for football development in Singapore.

“The fact that he claims no knowledge of this donation by Tiong Bahru FC to FAS only raises questions as to his leadership qualities and the level of governance exercised in relation to the matter.”

Photo: Team Game Changers