FAS introduces grassroots initiatives to boost youth development
A slew of initiatives will be introduced at grassroots level in a bid to lift Singapore football out of the doldrums.
During an hour-long press briefing at Jalan Besar Stadium on Thursday, Football Association of Singapore (FAS) acting president Bernard Tan called it “perhaps the most daring and most comprehensive approach in order to organise grassroots football”.
First, the FAS will introduce the Academy Accreditation System (AAS), aimed at recognising various academies in fostering youth development. About 40 private clubs and academies have already indicated interest in joining, which will allow the FAS to tap on a wider base of youth players and expand its talent pool.
Accredited academies will also come under FAS’ domestic training compensation system, another new initiative.
A professional club hoping to sign a young player from another club will have to pay a “transfer fee” to compensate the selling side’s efforts in developing the player. This system will be implemented in 2024.
The compensation system will apply for domestic transfers between amateur and professional clubs, as well as between professional clubs. The current system allows only Singapore Premier League clubs to claim compensation.
The compensation will be payable until the player reaches the age of 23, but the amount payable will be calculated based on the years from age 12 to 21. Details will be announced later.
The FAS will also launch the Singapore Youth League (SYL) in 2024, providing a competitive platform for young players to showcase their talent and gain match experience.
The SYL will cater to six age groups – Under-8, U-10, U-12, U-13, U-15 and U-17. The FAS currently organises competitive youth leagues only for U-15s, U-17s and U-21s.
The seven-month SYL will take place on weekends and comprise teams from FAS and private clubs and academies. The U-13, U-15 and U-17 leagues will consist of 10 teams in each of three divisions.
While the competition is currently for boys aged eight and above, Tan said there are plans to include girls who are good enough in a boys’ team.
The development of youth footballers in Singapore has been a hot topic, most recently following the Under-22 national team’s poor showing at the 2023 SEA Games, where they were thrashed 7-0 by Malaysia.
Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Culture, Community and Youth Eric Chua, who also leads the Unleash the Roar! football project, subsequently admitted that Singapore’s football ecosystem is “much weaker” and it needs to “go back to basics” to rebuild itself.
Browne, who has been in his role for a year, told The Straits Times that the move to introduce the SYL was to improve the level of youth players through the quantity and quality of matches.
The Englishman said: “if you look at not just the results, but our performances in recent years at U-16, U-19 level, quite clearly, our players are below the level of players from neighbouring countries. So all of the initiatives that we have or are introducing and implementing are aimed at raising our levels.”
The FAS also acknowledged that with its new plans and increased number of matches and activities, it would need to rope in volunteers. It will soon introduce an FAS Volunteers Programme, to attract, train, and manage volunteers in various aspects of football operations.
The initiatives have drawn positive reactions from youth coaches that ST spoke to.
Ibrahim Chemad, founder of Flair Football Academy is in discussions with FAS for his outfit to be accredited under the AAS. He said: “It’s a chance for our players to play in these tournaments and be subsequently recognised. The truth is the FAS scouts will track them more closely now.
“The SYL also seems to be a good platform for younger boys to play more competitive matches.”
Yakob Hashim, principal of Anza Singapore, agreed that the new moves were positive for Singapore football but called on FAS to have a constant engagement with accredited academies and clubs.