Jermaine with Sundram (left) and Krishna (right). Photo: SIX-SIX.COM


IN THE ATTEMPT to revive an ailing S-League, an experimental drug has been administered. The prescription: former Arsenal and Liverpool star Jermaine Pennant. The attending physician: Tampines Rovers.

It’s a bold move and broke the Stags bank to the tune of half a million dollars in salary alone, before bonuses, allowances and perks.

Will it work? Is this the way forward for other S-League clubs to draw fans back to Singapore’s only professional sports league?

When the S-League was launched in 1996, it had a sprinkling of international stars. Among them Iran’s World Cup midfielder Hamid Reza Estili and defender Mohamed Khakpour who donned Geylang United shirts.

Crowds thronged the S-League matches then, and when there were fixtures at the National Stadium, between 25,000 and 30,000 passed through the turnstiles. But the novelty soon wore off and not long after that the numbers fell to 3,000 and below.

Pennant is also a novelty, but he is a global brand, compared to what S-League clubs have been able to muster previously. What makes his presence a viable proposition this time round is that it is backed by a Stags marketing savvy management team who inked the deal with him.

Club chairman Krishna Ramachandra and his vice-president, Leon Yee, are the new team in command at the bridge of the Tampines ship.

Both men are managing directors at Duane, Morris & Selvam and among the leading corporate lawyers in the Asia Pacific. Their firm also has a specialty in sports, media and entertainment.

In short they are business folks and are the big difference versus other S-League club management that since 1996 have been fronted by hard-core football men.

When Krishna talks about his Tampines project, three key phrases stand out: That it is a good product, it has a sustainable business model and brand activation is central for sponsors. This is the language of business and what professional football is supposed to be — something that has been lacking in the S-League vocabulary for two decades.

This article first appeared on Read the full commentary here: Can the Pennant pill work for Tampines?