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FAS on the hunt for 10th Singapore Premier League team

The next Singapore Premier League (SPL) could become a 10-team competition again, for the first time since 2015.

On Dec 6, the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) put up a request for parties who are interested to form a 10th SPL club next season to submit a comprehensive proposal that is aligned with the Asian Football Confederation’s (AFC) club licensing and SPL regulations.

Interested parties can find out more on the FAS website. They must e-mail their expression of interest to tenders@fas.org.sg by 6pm on Dec 20 and will then have four weeks to submit their detailed proposal for consideration.

The FAS wrote: “By expanding the league’s participation, the aim is to raise the level of professional football in Singapore by attracting top football talent and garnering significant fan engagement.”

The Straits Times has learnt that there are at least three interested parties, one of whom are Tengah FC. Formed in 2017, they played in the Island Wide League (IWL) in 2023.

Though they lost 2-1 to Bedok South Avenue SC in the IWL final, both teams were promoted to the Singapore Football League 2, the third tier of local football, by virtue of finishing in the top two.

At the helm of Tengah’s bid to join the SPL is former footballer Louis Amalorpavanathan, who was a striker for teams like Jurong Town, Tyrwhitt Soccerites, Wellington FC and Safsa in the FAS Premier League and National Football League during the 1980s and early 1990s.

The 52-year-old told ST he had founded the club as he had trained with at-risk youth from rehabilitation centre Teen Challenge at Old Choa Chu Kang Road and wanted to “empower youth through sports”.

Declining to delve into details before their proposal is accepted, the owner of security and investigation firm Acestes said that he has a sustainable plan backed by local and foreign investors whom he said are like-minded in that they are more interested in developing Singapore football with Tengah than they are in making profit.

He added that if Tengah’s application is successful, they will not take Tote Board subsidies which most senior local SPL clubs receive to the tune of around $1 million per season.

This is also one of FAS’ proposal criteria which required “a comprehensive budget and financial plan for the club’s operations for the first three seasons (2024/5 to 2026/7), including revenue streams such as ticket sales, sponsorships, merchandise, and other potential sources”.

Amalor said: “We are serious about joining the SPL. Out of our current squad of 27 players, we have six who have shown signs that they can step up to become professionals. They have also indicated if we do get into the SPL, they will commit and become full-time players.

“We have plans and resources in place to form a strong team of players and backroom staff that will entertain the fans and bring them back to fill the stadium. We have already seen that with hundreds of fans turning up for our IWL games at St. Wilfrid and Jalan Besar this year.

“Not only do we want to develop good footballers for the national team and contribute to the Lions’ success on the international stage, we also want to provide job opportunities within the community in the west where we are based and bring the fraternity closer.

“I think it is the right time for a new team to create new excitement, and Tengah FC can provide that.”

The 2023 SPL season, which was won by Albirex Niigata, featured nine teams. It comprised just eight teams from 2020 to 2022 after Warriors FC were replaced by Tanjong Pagar United due to financial issues and Brunei DPMM withdrew due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In other developments, 2015 and 2019 champions DPMM have been cleared to play in the new SPL season.

There had been doubts after Football Association of Brunei Darussalam president Matusin Matasan and general secretary Shahnon Salleh were suspended and sacked by the nation’s Registrar of Societies. This was an act that might have been interpreted by world football governing body Fifa as government intervention, which could result in a ban from football activities.

However, the AFC competitions committee has given DPMM the green light to “participate in the 2024/2025 season of the Singapore Premier League and Singapore Cup, with the matter to be referred to Fifa for final approval”.

This statement appears to confirm that the next SPL season will, like the Malaysian Super League, transition from a spring-autumn to an autumn-spring season.

It is understood that a cup competition could fill the gap in the months before the next SPL season is held from May 2024 to May 2025 in an extended campaign. The following season is likely to take place from August 2025 to May 2026.

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