S.League gets long-awaited financial boost
Tote Board to continue funding of S.League, but funds will be channelled through SportSG
This is the piece of good news that all S.League clubs have been waiting for.
Funding for the 2017 Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League from the Tote Board, a critical financial backer, has been confirmed.
But, instead of the money being channelled directly to the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) and the S.League, Sport Singapore (SportSG) will be the middleman and disburse the money to the association.
In response to media queries, SportSG's director for NSA Partnership Lenard Pattiselanno said: "Sport Singapore is pleased that the Tote Board will continue to support FAS in their delivery of the strategic plan for football in the coming financial year.
"In line with our usual practice of managing funds for all NSAs (national sports associations), we will administer and oversee Tote Board's grants allocated for football development as part of overall government funding for football."
The details of the funding from the Tote Board for the S.League were not available.
The Tote Board has been the major financial backer of the country's only professional sports league, which reportedly had an expenditure of over $16 million last year.
S.League clubs have been facing uncertainty in terms of funding since the end of last season - they were reportedly told to hold off signing players for the 2017 season as the league had yet to finalise the Tote Board funding for the new season.
The confirmation of funding comes as a relief for clubs, as they prepare for the upcoming season, which is expected to kick off next month.
It is correct that SportSG is now overseeing funding for the S.League. We have been in discussion with SportSG and we will notify the clubs officially of the subsidy.FAS spokesman
Balestier Khalsa chairman S Thavaneson said: "I am sure all clubs would be pleased with this announcement... it's all systems go now.
"We had taken risks before and started our preparations before this, but we can go full speed ahead now."
Hougang United chairman Bill Ng, though, said the news had little bearing on his club as the Cheetahs have been moving towards self-sufficiency in their finances.
He said: "We've already prepared for this day (uncertainty of funding), so this situation has very little impact for us."
However, one senior club official said he was still concerned about the entire funding issue.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, he said: "The situation has not changed as we have not received any concrete news about the funding to the clubs.
"At club level, we are all definitely worried."
He also pointed out that SportSG's involvement in the S.League funding could mean a longer process of proposals and approvals before clubs on the ground receive the money.
SportSG requires NSAs to submit single- or multi-year funding proposals, and to get them approved before public funds are disbursed.
The club official said: "If the wheels are not set in motion early, the clubs will find delays in the release of funding.
"This has a big impact on clubs because most clubs are going in blind and signing contracts with uncertainty.
"If anything goes south, most clubs will be in dire financial straits."
Great Eastern set to renew deal
The S.League looks set to receive a massive financial boost merely days into the new year.
The New Paper understands that Great Eastern, the co-title sponsor for the S.League, is close to agreeing a fresh deal to support Singapore's professional football league.
The life insurance group's previous deal had ended with the conclusion of the 2016 S.League season last October.
A Great Eastern spokesman told The New Paper: "Great Eastern has been supporting the S.League for the past eight years.
"We are in the midst of discussions and hope to make an announcement soon."
Great Eastern first came on board as a title sponsor for the S.League in 2009, with a three-year deal reported to be worth about $1.8 million.
It renewed its sponsorship in 2012 for another two years with a $1m deal, and then exercised the option of a third year.
In 2015, it signed its most recent two-year contract valued at about $1 m.
As part of the agreement, Great Eastern is also the title sponsor of the Community Shield match - the curtain-raiser to the S.League season.
News that Great Eastern is keen to continue its partnership comes as a shot in the arm for S.League and local football.
Last November, four-time champions Singapore were knocked out of the AFF Suzuki Cup at the group stage for the second tournament in a row.
As a result, the Lions slipped three positions on Fifa's world ranking to 165, just six spots away from their all-time low.
S.League chief executive officer Lim Chin then announced on Tuesday that he will step down from his post on March 31 to pursue other opportunities.
But the league received a boost yesterday when Sport Singapore confirmed the Tote Board will continue its financial support of the S.League.