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Singapore Football

S’pore Premier League to use VAR for 2023 season

Video assistant referee (VAR) technology will be used in the Singapore Premier League for the first time this season when it kicks off on Feb 24, the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) said on Friday.

After passing a recent final assessment by world governing body Fifa, the FAS has been given the green light, which will make the SPL only the second professional league in South-east Asia after Thailand to introduce VAR.

FAS director (referees) Nazeer Hussain said: “The VAR system is increasingly becoming a staple feature in football since its introduction and we are pleased to have this piloted for the SPL, which will undoubtedly help to enhance and elevate the levels of officiating here.

“We are grateful for Fifa’s assistance, and of course the various local clubs who have helped us during the implementation process. I am confident that this is a positive development for Singapore football.”

Albirex Niigata head coach Kazuaki Yoshinaga, 54, welcomed the move. He said: “I believe that dirty play should be punished more severely. We also need to show fair and excellent play for the sake of the children, fans, and supporters of Singapore football in the future. I strongly hope that the introduction of VAR will help Singapore football develop in that way.”

The SPL champions will face reigning Singapore Cup winners Hougang United on Feb 19 in the Community Shield – the traditional curtain-raiser for the domestic season – before the league kicks off on Feb 24 with Lion City Sailors taking on Tanjong Pagar United at the revamped Bishan Stadium.

With Toa Payoh and Hougang Stadiums undergoing renovation, three clubs – Balestier Khalsa, Hougang United and Lion City Sailors –will be relocating. The Sailors return to Bishan Stadium, which they will share with Balestier, while Hougang will play their home games at the Jalan Besar Stadium alongside the Young Lions.

The 2023 SPL season, lasting till late August, will revert from a four-round to triple round-robin format, where each team will play 24 matches home and away.

This season marks the return of two-time champions Brunei DPMM, who will join the existing eight clubs. Based in Bandar Seri Begawan, they will play their opening three home matches at the Jalan Besar Stadium as their home ground, the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium, is currently undergoing major renovation.

The 24th Singapore Cup will be held from September to mid-December and feature eight SPL clubs with the Young Lions sitting out.

For the first time since 2017, Young Lions, whose squad previously comprised only local Under-23 players, will be allowed to register up to three foreign or overaged Singaporean players within their squad of 20 to 40 players. All other teams will have between 18 and 25 players.

All clubs, except Albirex and Young Lions, will have no change to their quota of four foreigners without age restrictions, of which one must be of the nationality of an Asian Football Confederation member association.

Similar to the 2022 season, all teams must field at least one U-23 player who is Singaporean during the entire first half. DPMM are required to field an U-23 player of Bruneian nationality for the same duration of every league game.

In addition, all local clubs including Albirex may include a maximum of five players from its U-21 team in its matchday squad.

Yoshinaga added: “Based on the lessons learnt from last season, we are working to build a stronger team than last season – the addition of (goalkeeper) Hassan Sunny is a symbol of this.

“In addition, we have acquired more ambitious Japanese players from last season in order to nurture young players in Singapore, and there will be fierce competition for regular spots.”

SPL games will primarily be scheduled between Friday and Sunday, with weekend matches to be moved from 5.30pm to 6pm. All matches will be broadcast live on Singtel TV and StarHub TV, and online via the SPL YouTube channel.

splVideo Assistant Referee