Football clubs could face tighter rules over jackpot revenue
FAS presidential candidate Lim Kia Tong feels recent saga could affect clubs' income
The police investigation into suspected misuse of amateur side Tiong Bahru Football Club's (TBFC) funds could have an impact on regulations surrounding jackpot revenue of local football clubs.
That's the view of Lim Kia Tong, the former Football Association of Singapore (FAS) vice-president who is running for the top post in Saturday's FAS election.
The little National Football League (NFL) club's financial might came under the spotlight after their chairman Bill Ng - Lim's opponent in the FAS election - said that he had donated $500,000 to the FAS, whose general secretary Winston Lee revealed by substantiating with documents that the donation was meant for the Asean Football Federation's Football Management System.
Various media have revealed that Tiong Bahru's annual revenue for the year ending March 31 last year was $36.8 million, with around $31m paid back in jackpot winnings and taxes.
The numbers raised many eyebrows and national sports agency Sport Singapore made a police report last Wednesday night, after it received information which raised suspicions of misuse of TBFC's funds, as well as a purported attempt to delay completion of audits into the accounts of S.League sit-out clubs.
This led to a police probe, with officers from the Commercial Affairs Department carrying out raids on three football clubhouses with links to Ng - TBFC, Woodlands Wellington and Hougang United - and FAS offices.
Lim, a lawyer, told The New Paper: "The allegations of the abuse of funds especially from the jackpot machines, will certainly alert or have alerted the police to attach more attention to the conditions for which the licence was issued for its use or for future use.
"Maybe new or more stringent regimens may be imposed. This is indeed a game changer."
Jackpots have been a revenue stream for local clubs for the last two decades.
Most professional S.League clubs operate on an annual budget of between $1.2m and $1.5m, and this includes about $800,000 in annual subsidies from the Tote Board.
In April 2015, the FAS told TNP that according to law, all clubs that run clubhouses with jackpot machines must submit their accounts monthly and are audited annually, and that "all this is done with strict corporate governance".
Patrick Ang, who was chairman of S.League club Geylang International from 1997 to 2012 and is unaffiliated in the FAS election, said: "It was the Ministry of Home Affairs that managed it at the time I was involved.
"It may have changed but, in the past, it was the number of members that your club had that determined the number of jackpot machines you could get a licence for.
“Maybe new or more stringent regiments may be imposed. This is indeed a game changer.”Former FAS vice-president Lim Kia Tong, who is running for the top post in the FAS election, on possible tightening of rules regarding clubs’ jackpot revenue
FOR FOOTBALL ONLY
"When the licence was issued, we were told that profits were to be used for the promotion of football, and for your club - you were not allowed to use it for anything else.
"In any case, almost all clubs are registered societies in Singapore and they have a similar constitution, and it is in the constitution that all profits will have to be put back into the club. That is clear."
One local club that do not obtain revenue from jackpot operations is Tampines Rovers, with their chairman Krishna Ramachandra taking the decision based on moral grounds.
His stance is that football's revenue should not depend on an activity that has been known to wipe out the life savings of retirees.
Ramachandra, who is running on Ng's slate as vice-president, however believes guidlines on jackpot operations do not need to be tightened.
"I think the authorities have always had very clear and extensive rules and regulations on the jackpot operations," said the corporate lawyer.
"I do not see that as an issue.
"Ultimately, the clubs need to ensure that they utilise the profits in a responsible manner and one that furthers the mandate of that club, be it a social or recreational or sports club.
"If that mandate is followed religiously, then we will see less issues."
As part of police investigations, FAS general secretary Lee, former president Zainudin Nordin, Ng and his wife Bonnie Wong have been interviewed by the authorities.
Zainudin, who stepped down from his post in the FAS in November and is now deputy principal at ITE College East, had previously refused to speak to the media about his links with Ng.
But, on Saturday, he told the Today newspaper that he had no business dealings with Ng, saying: "I was appointed as adviser to ESW Manage (a company with links to Ng) in January 2017. My role is to advise ESW on their CSR (corporate social responsibility) work.
"This appointment was after my stepping down as president of FAS. "I turned down the offer to be chairman of TBFC.
"Mr Bill Ng and I are not business partners and we do not have any business dealings."