TIME FOR FAS CRITICS TO STEP UP

Zainudin Nordin's term as FAS president ended on Sept 30, but will stay on until elections are held for the first time since 1968. Photo FAS

The Football Association of Singapore must hold elections for office bearers in its Council to comply with FIFA statutes. Time has arrived for critics of the management of the game to step forward and present their ideas.

BY IAN DE COTTA

AFTER The New Paper broke the news in July of an impending decision by FIFA, the world football body has finally forced its will upon the Football Association of Singapore. Citing statutes that member associations must manage their affairs independently, FIFA now wants the FAS to hold elections of its Council members.

It will put an end to almost five decades of government-approved appointees who took over the running of local football in 1968— and not in 1982 as indicated in the FAS statement—when the FAS was struggling with bankruptcy.

At various times since then, the association’s constitution was amended to allow the Minister for Social Affairs and currently the Minister for Community, Culture and Youth to approve or appoint the sport’s administrators.

This practice, said FIFA, has got to stop as it contravenes the sport’s statutes (see key statutes below).

Its requirements were issued in an FAS statement on Wednesday and member clubs are expected to cast their votes next March. Until then the current administration headed by president Zainudin Nordin, the former MP for Bishan-Toa Payoh, will remain in place.

If the FAS fails to comply, it will suffer the same fate as two other South-east Asia associations. FIFA suspended Brunei from football activities from September 2009 to May 2011 because of government interference. Indonesia was banned in May this year and is still out of the game.

FIFA’s move comes at a time when local football is not in the best of health (Read my report here (http://goo.gl/RO7Tkk) when I was writing for Today). And there had been expectations that after the tenure of Zainudin’s team ended on Sept 30, a new team would take local football forward with fresh ideas.

This will now have to wait.

There is a lot wrong with Singapore football and the question is if an elected council can do better to sort these things out. From the way grassroots football is played to the quality of talent fed to the national teams and the running of the S-League, which is all but dead, there is much to do.

What has kept FAS going in running football here is money primarily handed out by the Government through Sports Singapore and Singapore Pools. And it was because the association was in dire financial straits through bad management in 1968 that authorities stepped in to take over the administration of the game.

As one leading sports administrator said recently, the reason is simple: “The Government cannot allow football to fail.” It is the nation’s No 1 sport, both in terms of participation and following, and emotions run high, especially when it comes to the national senior and under-23 teams.

But FAS administrators have said its annual budget of $10 million isn’t enough and this is the key reason why Singapore football isn’t as good as the best in Asia.

They compare Indonesia’s budget of S$112 million, Vietnam’s $60 million, Thailand $52 million and Malaysia $35 million. But these countries have a far higher population base and attract sponsors in droves. It is no secret, too, that governments in these countries lend their weight to get companies behind the sport.

So, for football to move forward in Singapore, the key is for an elected FAS Council to work hand in glove with the government, through its agency Sport Singapore. But this can only work if the Government continues to have a role in the Council as a major stakeholder without contravening FIFA statutes.

How can this take place? There is nothing in FIFA rules that stopped government officials, even ministers, from being a member in a country’s football council. And they don’t necessarily have to be elected.

Its 17.2 statute only requires that if not elected, a person must be appointed by the association and not by a third party like a minister. The essence of this rule is the “complete independence of the election or appointment”.

There is much to hope for from an elected council because the downside to a minister-appointed membership is that they may not be driven towards excellence. The risk is that they are there only to serve out their terms.

But an elected Council will attract those with a deep interest and expertise to see football here succeed financially, and standards rise on the field. They will have a stake to see their plans bear fruit, and get the right people in place in the day-to-day running of the secretariat to see that this is carried out.

But who will step forward? Among the top hierarchy of FAS member clubs, sponsors and benefactors, ideas and critical views flourish aplenty on how the association is and should be managed.

The time has come for them to step up and put their money where their mouths are and stand for election. Stop quibbling and present your ideas on how to take Singapore football onto the next level.

 

THE STATUTES FIFA WANTS THE FAS TO COMPLY WITH

  1. Member associations’ obligations

1.i to manage their affairs independently and ensure that their own affairs are not influenced by any third parties

  1. On the independence of members and their bodies
  1. Each Member shall manage its affairs independently and with no influence from third parties.
  2. A Member’s bodies shall be either elected or appointed in that Association. A Member’s statutes shall provide for a procedure that guarantees the complete independence of the election or appointment.
  3. Any Member’s bodies that have not been elected or appointed in compliance with the provisions of par. 2, even on an interim basis, shall not be recognised by FIFA.
  4. Decisions passed by bodies that have not been elected or appointed in compliance with par. 2 shall not be recognised by FIFA.