Furious football academy finds new home alongside Cafe Football

The managing director of Singapore football academy JSSL and former Manchester United defender Paul Parker have both slammed the decision to evict the school from its venue at Home United over noise complaints...

Forced to relocate after Home United Youth Football Academy (HYFA) was ordered by the Singapore Land Authority to restrict operations on its two 11-a-side pitches at Mattar Road, JSSL Singapore’s managing director Harvey Davis has opened up to FourFourTwo, criticising the manner of the eviction.

It’s all very arbitrary and shows a complete disregard for the 1,200 young boys and girls who use the fields

No lead time was given before the academy was told to cease its operations.

“We turned up for training on a Tuesday, the 15th of December and in the middle of the session I got called into a meeting where I was told I had to stop training that night, on the two pitches and immediately from the next day onwards,” Davis explains.

“We were not to use the two pitches anymore.”

Prior to the injunction, the academy had been made aware of complaints about the noise from residents living nearby and had taken measures to mitigate the problem, but it was not enough.

“We moved all the parents away from the blocks where the complaints were coming from,” Davis continued.

Despite his frustrations, Davis is thrilled with JSSL's new home

“Our coaches stopped using whistles. During the league games on the weekends, we used lower-pitch party whistles. We even offered to pay for noise-proofing fixtures to the residents of the nearby blocks. We put that on the table.

“But the Singapore Land Authority just said no. It’s all very arbitrary and shows a complete disregard for the 1,200 young boys and girls who use the fields.”

What kills me is that because of a handful of complaints, they have taken the playing fields away from more than a thousand kids. It makes very little sense

- Paul Parker

Parker, who is JSSL's executive director, also voiced his frustration at the decision.

The 1990 World Cup participant told FourFourTwo that the injunction goes against Singapore’s attempts at fostering a sporting culture.

“You are trying to develop good young footballers here, but that’s not going to happen unless you are willing to let people actually play football," he said.

"Kids when they play the game, they get passionate. When they score a goal, they will raise their voices, that’s called having fun.

"What kills me is that because of a handful of complaints, they have taken the playing fields away from more than a thousand kids. It makes very little sense.”

Davis also expressed frustration with the lack of communication by Home United.

“We have been working with Home United through their management company – Asia Sports Holdings Pte Ltd – since July 2015.

“We are their main tenant and we pay them more than $20,000 per month.

“We have even invested in the facilities ourselves by putting up spectator stands, putting in extra Astroturf around the pitches, but they did not have the decency to even give us an explanation. For the whole of December, there was no correspondence at all. It’s very poor business etiquette.”

For the whole of December, there was no correspondence at all (from Home United). It’s very poor business etiquette

After a few weeks of being left in limbo, JSSL finally found a new home at The Arena, a brand spanking new sports park at Woodleigh, which also incorporates Singapore’s first Cafe Football, which is partly owned by Manchester United greats Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville.

Rent at the new facility is higher but Harvey believes it’s justified because of the better quality facilities at Woodleigh.

“At HYFA, it was really just the bare minimum, there wasn’t much for the parents, but at The Arena, you have fantastic facilities,” he said.

The new facility boasts much more than just football pitches

“They have spent millions so you get better changing rooms, there is the fantastic restaurant where you can grab a bite after training, you have the fitness studios so the parents can go for classes while the kids are at training, so there’s something for the whole family.”

Since the move, however, enrolment has fallen by as much as 300 students.

“In most other academies, if you lose 300 students, that would have been the end of your business,” Davis said. “It’s a big blow for us.

“All we can do now is try to reach out to them. We are offering discounts and we hope they can come back and see for themselves what a great facility this is.”

Photos: Weixiang Lim/FourFourTwo