Sports Hub chief assures fans that National Stadium is Lions' home
Acting CEO Jones says the National Stadium does not have to be full for it to be a good fan experience
In February 2018, the Singapore Sports Hub and the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) signed a memorandum of understanding to make the National Stadium the home of the Lions.
Walk the precinct and you will see posters boasting that the stadium is the home of the Lions, the escalators' walls feature pictures of Singapore captain Hariss Harun and other national players carrying a similar message.
So far this year, the national football team have yet to step onto the National Stadium turf, but Sports Hub chairman and acting chief executive Bryn Jones said the relationship is not a hollow one.
He said: "I think we've really worked very, very hard to make this work for them (FAS).
"There is a sort of commercial return, emotional return, reputational return - these are things we need to think about because this is the national stadium and we are sensitive to that.
"You can see, you come up the escalators, the changing rooms, they are all branded.
"This is the home of the Lions."
The team are scheduled to kick off their World Cup 2022 qualification campaign in September, possibly at home.
But the Lions are in a sorry state right now, and I wondered if the fact that the team will not be able to attract a sizeable crowd, as well as cost issues of the stadium and a conflict in the events schedule, could influence whether matches are staged at the National Stadium, or not.
"It is the home of the Lions, and you know what, it is good for us," said Jones.
"Even if we got 15,000 people here, which we are probably a little away from, you can imagine 15,000 people coming in here to watch the Lions and people feeling good about it. It would be great.
"So, we will support them in any way."
Since it started operations five years ago, the Sports Hub has faced criticism over a lack of marquee sports events at the 35-hectare facility.
Much of the complaints has centred around the National Stadium, which has not staged a single cricket match or a noteworthy athletics event, despite boasting the ability to be configured to host such sports.
CREATE A RELATIONSHIP
Said Jones: "I think the athletics has been for the schools, where the national championships was held here, which in some ways goes to your earlier point about how you create emotion and a relationship...
"Some of the children running here would have been overjoyed to be here.
"It is also important to reflect on how the world has changed in terms of sports and events...
"Take the Olympics, for example.
"A lot of cities won't even bid for it now because it's just (leaves) a huge debt."
Jones added that it's about "what's really going to excite people in the stadium".
The 56-year-old believes the Sports Hub's portfolio of events excites people and represents a mixture of the superstar entertainers, be it from the sporting or musical arena.
He revealed that the Sports Hub gets approached for all sorts of sports and events.
So my quest for an All Blacks-Wallabies clash at the National Stadium is not a pipe dream then?
Said Jones: "We had dinner with folks from World Rugby and I asked exactly that question. I said how far ahead do I have to work back to have the Bledisloe Cup here.
"New Zealand and Australia are playing in Tokyo this year, and I reckon our stadium is at least as good as theirs, and our pitch is probably 10 times better. And we are nearer.
"I think... you've got to demonstrate on a continuous basis that I can do it, such that people trust you.
"To me now, what's been demonstrated by Rugby 7s, in hosting Tier 1 rugby, is that they say these guys know how to do it."
Jones stressed that developing a good reputation is crucial if the Sports Hub wants to woo the big acts here.
"Apparently, the crew from Ed Sheeran, they've been on a two-year world tour, and they said this was the best stadium they've been in in two years, and not only the best stadium, the best people to work with.
"Which means they will come back.
"And I think the same applies to the rugby... they've seen what we've done, not only in terms of the facilities, but (also) the welcome that they got, both from the stadium and the people of Singapore, and they'll want to come back."
- LEONARD THOMAS