'MY PERFORMANCE... SATISFACTORY'
1 What are some of the highs and lows you've experienced as chief executive officer of the S.League?
The satisfaction I've got is from making things work and seeing things come to fruition.
We've had some disappointments in that we've had some good ideas, but haven't been able to follow through with them due to issues on the ground.
We've had some successes, though, like our initiative to give out potato chips in neighbourhoods, the S.League Superbabes, even the push-cart stalls that we put in place of the merchandise store that was initially planned.
2 What would you say is the key factor in luring fans back into S.League stadiums?
There is an important correlation between the quality of football and fan interest, but it may not be a direct correlation.
People remember good football and great goals - and even a 100 per cent effort from players - but ambience inside the stadium is important.
It can make a dull 0-0 draw exciting, if fans get into things.
On the pitch, we're quite happy with the formula that we have implemented, especially the marquee-player initiative (clubs can sign one foreign player without the salary cap of $10,000 and the S.League will assist in monetary terms).
It's off the pitch that we can do better.
And we're making moves to implement things like match programmes, clappers, mascots and even throwing in various deals to go along with ticket purchases in our effort to bring fans to stadiums.
3 What is the most critical off-the-pitch initiative that has been tabled?
We need corporations to come in, not only in terms of sponsorship, but also to play a bigger role, to perhaps adopt or champion clubs. That's our short-to-medium term goal.
I know it's something that's been tried in the past, but maybe we haven't tried hard enough.
I think last year's potato chip initiative has had some success, as have our school outreach programmes - I really appreciate the effort that clubs put in to increase attendances last season.
4 What more do you think needs to be done to take the S.League to the next level?
If you look at all 10 local clubs today, they are better managed and are more financially stable than they were 10 years ago.
Clubs are not completely staffed yet, but I'm happy with how professional, proficient, committed and capable their (administrative) personnel are.
I'd like to see the players be more professional in all aspects - become fitter, for example. From there, the league can improve.
5 With some local players leaving for the LionsXII and Malaysian clubs, and the new youth-development initiative seeing only Home United, Warriors FC and Balestier Khalsa run a Centre of Excellence (COE) programme - down from eight clubs last year - is there a danger the talent pool in the country will shrink?
I think having only three clubs run Centres of Excellece is better because we can put more resources into these three clubs instead of spreading it across the league.
There are dedicated staff at the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) to oversee this. The COE syllabus is in line with the national football philosophy and the number of players in the scheme will be about the same as before. This is the best we can do with the limited resources that we have.
I think the COEs will be able to churn out enough good players for all clubs in the future.
6 You joined the S.League as CEO in January 2012. How would you rate your performance as the S.League prepares to enter its 19th season, and what would you implement if you had absolute freedom to change?
My performance? Satisfactory.
Obviously I'd like to do better in everything that we do and make our programmes more effective.
I would like to privatise the S.League and have corporations back all clubs.
It is a model that has worked in several countries and is something that will lead to improvements in all facets - from stadiums to team rosters, and even media interest and television deals.
That's right at the top of my wish-list for the S.League.
IN THE BOX SEAT
S.LEAGUE CHAMPS COULD GET SHOT AT ASL
Tampines Rovers chairman Teo Hock Seng has made his wish known.
He wants his side - champions of the S.League for the last three seasons - to represent Singapore in the Asean Super League (ASL), when its inaugural season kicks off next January.
It looks as if there is a chance he could get his wish.
Speaking to The New Paper yesterday ahead of Friday's kick-off to the 2014 Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League season, S.League CEO Lim Chin said: "We are still unclear about the ASL, and we're trying to see if the S.League can have a direct connection with the ASL.
"The ASL concept is being discussed, and there is a big possibility that the S.League can participate and benefit from the ASL."
When asked if there was a possibility that the S.League champions could fly the Republic's flag in the ASL, and sponsorship dollars could trickle down into the domestic league, Lim said: "All that, yes.
"The key is to maintain interest in the league and improve the competitiveness out on the field."
The ASL is backed by 10 regional countries and already has the support of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president Sheikh Salman Ebrahim Al Khalifa.
The idea is to have professional clubs from South-east Asia doing battle in a league format on a home-and-away basis.
Its inaugural season is pencilled in to run from next January, but the format and its make-up have yet to be announced.
The impending launch of the ASL in 2015 has led to question marks over the well-being of the S.League, which has for some years now faced a tough battle to attract more sponsorships and draw fans to stadiums.
The entry of the LionsXII into Malaysia's professional football competitions in 2012 made the task even tougher.
Lim, though, does not believe that the S.League is in danger of being sidelined, or turning into a semi-professional competition - before the launch of the S.League in 1996, the semi-pro Premier League was the top football club competition in Singapore.
Said Lim: "It's early days yet, and we can't pre-empt what the ASL will look like, but the intention is to keep our S.League professional - turning semi-professional will be a backward step."
According to the four-year deal signed with the Football Association of Malaysia in 2011, Singapore side the LionsXII will participate in the Malaysian Super League (MSL) till the end of the 2015 season.
It means that the football calendar is set to be a very crowded one in 2015 and beyond, as it is believed the Football Association of Singapore would like the LionsXII to continue playing in Malaysia's club competitions.
But Lim believes the Singapore football habitat can sustain interest in the S.League, the MSL and a regional club competition.
He said: "We must find an ecosystem in which the ASL, MSL and S.League can co-exist.
"The right formula is important, (and that depends on) how the concept of the ASL is being developed."
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