Why the ongoing FAS election row is shaming Singapore football

As candidates on both sides resort to mudslinging, the sordid accusations show once again that the local game is more interested in its administrators than its footballers, argues Neil Humphreys.

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Against all odds, Singapore football has managed to sink even further this week.

Just when you thought a struggling industry, long mired in mediocrity and financial uncertainty, couldn’t go any lower, it cheerily burrows on through to new depths of despair.

A tawdry, tedious game of ‘he said, she said’ continues to be played out in the build-up to the FAS elections

A tawdry, tedious game of ‘he said, she said’ continues to be played out in the build-up to the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) elections on April 29, achieving nothing other than to confirm the suspicions of an indifferent public.

To the casual observer, Singapore’s only professional sport looks like a dispiriting basket case of back-handers, back-slappers and ladder-climbers, all focused on personal ambition rather than the game itself.

That’s the long-standing perception and after a week of petty claims and counter-claims, the perception now presents itself as reality. It’s all about greasing palms and making friends in higher places.

To summarise the grubby, convoluted affair, Bill Ng, the Hougang United chairman and FAS presidential candidate, claimed at a press conference that $850,000 was donated to FAS, at the association’s request, through his clubs Tiong Bahru FC and Hougang.

Ng intimated that Winston Lee, the FAS general secretary, arranged the donations without the knowledge of other FAS council members. 

Bill Ng ahead of last week's press event. Photo: Game Changers

Lee subsequently denied the accusation, adding that Ng had “full knowledge” of how the donations were used.

According to Lee, $200,000 went towards supporting the LionsXII in 2012, while $500,000 went to the ASEAN Football Federation’s (AFF) Football Management System, a “system” that almost no one had heard of until last week.

A later report claimed that former FAS president Zainudin Nordin had asked Ng for the AFF donation, although Ng denies Nordin’s involvement.

Ng continued the slanging match with another statement released to the media on Monday night reaffirming his accusations.

Information about the AFF’s obscure system is sketchy, beyond it being an online portal of sorts that focuses on improving administration at Southeast Asian football associations and clubs.

If that’s the case, then Ng might consider a refund. The AFF system isn’t improving administration at the FAS, if the latest allegations are proved to be true.

In a development that tiptoes away from parody and towards farce, Lim Kia Tong, the former FAS vice-president who is challenging Ng for the FAS presidency, has since claimed the donation was never discussed. 

Lim Kia Tong during his former role with FAS

Lim then called on the FAS to show full accountability.

In other words, Lim wants several of his Team LKT members, who were in the previous FAS council, to investigate themselves over a $500,000 donation they allegedly knew nothing about, which inadvertently hints at either ignorance or incompetence.

So it goes without saying that no one looks good here. The petty catfights raise serious questions on all sides. 

If Ng did donate so much money to the FAS, why did he not know where it was going? If he did know, why be so coy about it in the press conference?

How can half a million dollars allegedly be donated to the FAS without everyone on the council knowing about it? 

[NEXT: How does $500,000 of football donations leave Singapore?]