No security personnel, no medical support and no insurance coverage for the players. It sounds like a scene from a regular weekend social football game, but these are the same conditions that the clubs from the National Football League (NFL) and Island Wide League (IWL) – regarded as Singapore football’s second and third division respectively – have had to play their matches in.
TODAY understands that some of the other common issues the clubs have encountered include double booking of football fields, match officials arriving late, and even match commissioners failing to turn up for a game.
These issues paint a bleak picture of what the NFL and IWL clubs have had to go through over the last few years.
But the management of the two leagues have come under the spotlight following last Saturday’s (Oct 1) brawl between the players of Balestier United Recreation Club (BURC) and the Singapore Armed Forces Sports Association (SAFSA) during a FA Cup match.
A police report was lodged over the incident, and the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) is investigating the matter.
This comes on the back of revelations at the FAS’ Annual General Meeting (AGM) last week that only about S$70,000 – which represents 0.2 per cent of their total annual budget of S$35.8 million – had been spent on the NFL, IWL and grassroots competitions.
A look through FAS’s financial records for the past seven years revealed that their funding for grassroots football has dropped steadily from almost S$100,000 in 2009 to just S$70,000 this year.
In contrast, the FAS allocated more than S$1 million to develop women’s football and S$4 million for the defunct LionsXII’s Malaysian Super League campaign.
Several NFL club representatives that TODAY spoke to revealed the leagues have being poorly managed over the last few years.
“There is usually no security or stadium stewards at our games, and so situations such as what happened on Saturday can arise,” said GFA Sporting Westlake FC team manager Mohamad Abdul Latiff. “It’s very difficult to manage such situations if the organisers don’t take control. It’s not uncommon to hear of fights happening on the pitch during games, although it usually isn’t as serious as what happened on Saturday.
“We’ve also seen situations before when the referee is being harassed by players after a match and he could only leave the field after calling the police in.
“But that’s not all. There are also many instances where the field is double booked. This year alone, my team has had to face seven game cancellations at the last minute, which costs us time and money.
“Of course, this will not happen if the FAS can ensure that the leagues are better run and organised.”
Agreeing, Siglap FC team manager Alim Omar added: “FAS staff are seldom seen in any NFL matches. All match inspectors are also volunteers, and it’s very rare that you can see a referee assessor in the lower leagues. But if FAS spends so little on the league, it’s not surprising that this is what you get.”
One of the biggest bugbears that the NFL and IWL clubs have is the absence of professional medical coverage, although each team is required to bring their own first-aid trained personnel for every match.
“There’s never been any medical coverage, and if any bad incidents happen, only then will an ambulance be activated,” said former national goalkeeper Yakob Hashim, who is now coach of Yishun Sentek Mariners. “The players are also not covered by insurance so, if they get injured, they will have to pay the medical bills themselves. This can discourage players from taking part.”
Another NFL coach, who requested not to be named, believes that while medical coverage is essential, it is not necessary for the FAS to hire security for the games.
“The basic thing needed is medical support,” he said. “But I don’t think we need a security detail and we shouldn’t waste resources on it.”
Referring to the brawl on Saturday, the coach added: “At the end of the day, this boils down to the club and how officials educate and manage their players.
“There were less than 100 people at the game, why should there be security for that? So it’s the clubs’ duty to ensure their players behave professionally.”
FAS’S SPENDING ON GRASSROOTS COMPETITIONS
(National Football League, Island Wide League, Singapore 9s)
2009 – S$99,207
2010 – S$94,321
2011/2012 – S$90,587
2012/2013 – S$89,174
2013/2014 – S$85,842
2014/2015 – S$79,793
2015/2016 – S$70,701
* Figures from FAS Annual Report
* Amount derived from FAS expenses minus clubs’ entry fees
Source: TODAY Online