Football chief Bernard Tan: I want to bring FAS to where it needs to be
Bernard Tan was appointed as president of the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) for the remainder of the 2022-25 term at the organisation’s annual congress at Sheraton Towers last Saturday.
On The Straits Times’ podcast series Hard Tackle, Tan spoke to Deepanraj Ganesan in his first interview as the new football chief and shared why he decided to step up, what the scene needs to do to measure up to others in the region and what changes local football fans can look forward to.
This is an excerpt from the discussion.
Q: Why have you taken the step forward to be president?
Tan: I was actually listening to some people describe it as a poisoned chalice... I’ve had many friends who have always asked me why do you take this job up? But if somebody doesn’t do it, then... Singapore really has no hope.
And I feel passionate about the game. I don’t think that that’s in doubt. What’s key now is whether I feel I can bring it to a different place. And I feel that given the fact that I’ve got nine years of experience being a No. 2 (as deputy president)... it’s now time for me to actually make a difference. And if I can’t make a difference, then someone better can take that job.
You’ve been in FAS since 2013. Why would you becoming president mean something different?
Tan: It depends on what kind of constraints you accept. So if you accept that the current constraints that we face are going to carry on in the future, I would say it’s not possible for us to make any significant improvements. But I think that we are on the verge of those constraints being broken.
First, we have successfully moved with Unleash the Roar! (government-backed football project). This is actually the work of the last council as well, where we worked together to persuade government agencies to support football as a special project for the nation... so I’m optimistic that represents one change, but that’s not enough.
So we need to push several other changes in order to make sure that Singapore will move to a better position... we know that a lot more needs to be done, we’ve begun that journey. And hopefully, with the remaining two years I have as president, we can actually start to run with those programmes.
Q: Would you say that you are satisfied with what you contributed to Singapore football since 2013?
Tan: The answer is no, because we haven’t moved Singapore football in the right direction. So obviously, we did something about it. I have served under two different presidents who had different views and visions. And they brought FAS to where they thought it needed to be.
I have a vision. And I want to bring FAS to where it needs to be. So I ask that we give this period of time, where I have control of the wheel, to actually try to get Singapore in the right direction.
Q: What will be done to improve the Singapore Premier League for the next season?
Tan: The league is going through transition. You’ve heard talk of a privatised league for a long time. So next year will be a transition year in which we prepare the grounding. And my suspicion is that the target will be in 2025.
So there are three things that we’re looking at. The first is the number and intensity of games. When you have more games, you have to use your squad, which means that your squad have more depth, and you will develop players with more minutes.
The second is that we are looking... at introducing more foreigners. We’re also looking at some of the foreigners coming in much younger, so that they have a chance to actually love our country and become Singaporeans in the end.
In terms of the number of teams, we’re looking to increase. If we have more teams, the league will be much more attractive and much more exciting.