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FAS assessing applicants’ proposals to join SPL

No new entrant has been accepted into the Singapore Premier League (SPL) yet, the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) said on Feb 21, which means the upcoming 2024-25 season remains a nine-team competition for now.

In response to queries from The Straits Times, an FAS spokesman said it is aware that there has been “speculation” regarding a new SPL club, adding that it has yet to complete its assessment of the applicants. It will “confirm changes to the clubs participating in the SPL only when this exercise is completed”.

This came after Tengah FC, one of those who had expressed interest to become the SPL’s 10th club, announced on their Facebook page on Feb 17 that they had received “in-principle approval by FAS” to compete in the 2024-25 season, which starts in May.

The post stated: “We’re thrilled to announce that Tengah FC is gearing up for an incredible season ahead... We’re set to make waves as the second football club ever to storm into the SPL without any grants from FAS.”

Formed in 2017, Tengah were runners-up in the fourth-tier Island Wide League in 2023. Helming their bid to join the SPL is Louis Amalorpavanathan, who played in the FAS Premier League and National Football League during the 1980s and 1990s.

The 52-year-old, who owns security and investigation firm Acestes, had previously told ST that he has a sustainable plan backed by local and foreign investors.

He also said that if Tengah’s application is successful, they will not take Tote Board subsidies, which cover about 75 per cent of an SPL club’s annual budget of close to $2 million.

On Dec 6, the FAS had put up a request for parties interested to join next season’s SPL to submit their proposals.

It confirmed on Feb 21 that it had received multiple responses from clubs who are keen to join the league and that discussions have taken place with applicants.

The spokesman added: “In the course of discussions, the FAS may be required to offer an in-principle acceptance to a club, to allow the club to take further steps with sponsors and other agencies to allow it (to) meet certain stringent prerequisites before an unconditional approval to join the SPL is given.”

These include fulfilling Asian Football Confederation’s (AFC) club licensing requirements, the ability to field a competitive team and, crucially, ensuring that they are able to cover all costs for the season, with a significant portion being players and officials’ salaries.

The latter may involve providing financial guarantees, especially since the FAS had said that the new club will not receive subsidies.

In e-mail exchanges seen by ST, the FAS had informed Tengah that they would need to provide proof of funds through an escrow account or a banker’s guarantee.

ST understands that before entering the SPL, the Lion City Sailors showed financial proof of a 10-year plan to fund the club, while Brunei DPMM produced a banker’s guarantee.

Tengah have yet to submit the proof of funds and ST understands that they had asked for a waiver of the need to meet AFC’s club licensing criteria, which include having their own stadium and youth set-up. When contacted, Louis noted that Tengah were the only team to be given an “in-principle approval” and said that he was committed to forging ahead and joining the SPL to give a platform for locals.

He added: “We are still in discussions and clarifying matters with FAS with regard to our participation and it would be premature to say much at the moment. In terms of our social media post, it was to engage our fans and giving them some hope and excitement.

“As for proof of funds, we have written to FAS and we are waiting to hear back from them. We have submitted necessary documentation and asked for an extension for the deadline of Feb 28.”

Searches on job portals showed that the club have put out job advertisements for the roles of general manager, head of human resources, and finance and technical director.

One such ad said that the club “which will be competing in the Singapore Premier League 2024-25 season, is seeking a highly skilled and experienced technical director to oversee all aspects of football operations”.

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