FAS elections: Danger of a hijack

Is this an end of an era in the Football Association of Singapore. PHOTO: FAS

IAN DE COTTA

TWO WORDS, ‘concerned’ and ‘hijack’, stood out in SportSG’s dialogue with the media on Friday on the amended Football Association of Singapore constitution that will pave the way for the election of a new president and council members.

What did the sports authority mean?

In context, officials cited a possible ‘danger’ that voting to pass the constitution at the upcoming EOGM on Nov 7 and, separately, voting in the FAS election at a later date may be mixed up.

So, the concern is the constitution may not get the nod of all 46 FAS’ affiliates and inevitably a date to elect new officials cannot be fixed. Meaning football would be in limbo with current council members unable to leave office until it is resolved.

Affiliates, of course, disagreed with parts of the amended constitution when they received a draft last month, particularly who can qualify to stand for the elected president’s post. It forced the FAS to abandon a vote on it during the Annual General Meeting barely two weeks later.

The FAS came under fire and subsequently some among those who intend to contest the elections used social media to hurl abuses, even at each other.

SportSG said what it did “not want is mud slinging and the taking of pot shots on social media. There are parties trying to hijack the agenda and there are a lot of emotions that needs to be managed”.

“This is one particular sport where we cannot allow the NSA to quibble and be dysfunctional. We don’t want the FAS to become one of those.”

What is possibly between the lines of the last bit is worth examining a little closer.

Nigeria’s civil war paused for 48 hours when Pele and his Brazilian club, Santos, played an exhibition match in the country in 1969. Didier Drogba and the Ivory Coast did better, ending one in their homeland when they played in the 2006 World Cup Finals.

Football moves a nation and if we transpose ‘concern’ and ‘hijack’ over this context, then the worry of authorities comes into focus.

Which is while seemingly and successfully helping football, the real agenda of someone holding office as FAS president or council member may be to subtly push his brand and, ultimately, personal causes outside football.

And there is the issue of money that flows into the FAS coffers, which was almost $36 million in 2016. Under weak management temptation can go into overdrive.

Can someone with an agenda and a weak management team take over the FAS?

This is a very real possibility and the current council can only trigger this outcome. There has been a lot of anger in the last two decades that they and some in the management secretariat are responsible for the rot in local football.

If any member in their ranks stands for election, they risk stoking fear among many in the 46 affiliates that management of the game can only get worse. And this is the danger: On impulse they may vote for a team who are not good for the game here — if this is the only choice available to them.

Can SportSG do anything to prevent a bad outcome in the elections? It can encourage men, and women, who have done much for football and sport to stand for the FAS elections.

But, then, some — especially those with an agenda — will shout ‘government interference’, which in my opinion is a lot of cock and bull.

What every local football fan wants is for the game to move forward, not backwards, and if SportSG can help bring this about, why not.