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SportSG chief calls for revamp of youth development in Singapore football

SportSG chief calls for revamp of youth development in Singapore football
Singapore players (in red) react after losing to Malaysia at the SEA Games. Photo: Jason Quah/TODAY

SportSG chief calls for revamp of youth development in Singapore football

Amid reports of impending cuts to S-League funding, Lim Teck Yin says more resources will be directed to improving the sport at the youth level

SINGAPORE — As Singapore football continues to flounder at the regional and international stage, Sport Singapore (SportSG) chief executive officer Lim Teck Yin has called for the sport to focus on improving its youth development. As such, more resources will be channeled to beef up this area as the Government looks to reverse the ailing fortunes of its national teams.

Lim also said that the current football ecosystem model, which includes the S-League, is not working, as evidenced by the recent results of its national age-group teams. This includes the Young Lions’ group stage exit at the recent Kuala Lumpur SEA Games.

The sports chief’s claims come days after media reports that funding for the S-League - which comes from the Tote Board but is disbursed by SportSG – is likely to be reduced by nearly 50 per cent to S$8.5million from next season onwards.

The potentially substantial cut to the league’s budget has sparked fears within the local footballing community that it could lead to worsening standards.

However, Lim believes the focus for Singapore football going forward should instead be on improving its youth development, as he urged the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) and its newly-elected council to develop long-term plans with that goal in mind.

“I think what is very clear to most observers, and to the FAS, is that there needs to be a revamp of youth development,” Lim told the media in a SEA Games wrap-up press conference on Tuesday (Sept 12).

“It’s about developing the pipeline so that the youth talents will continue to play, and go on to feature for the senior national team, and this may require a certain prioritisation of resources in terms of favouring and investing in youth development.

“So the review of the S.League will have to take that into account, because there’s only so much funds available for the whole of football development…so the signals that come out of the FAS in terms of its thinking and plans should be resonating in the direction of youths.”

When asked if the reduction of S.League funding would dissuade youths from pursuing a professional career in football, Lim countered that the current league model has also proved that it “doesn’t encourage talent to continue playing”.

He added: “I’m not going to discount the fact that there may be a lot of differing views (about the funding issue) coming from people who have had a lot of experience in the football ecosystem, and SportSG…has to be very open in listening to those views. But just by looking at results and the flow of talent currently, it’s clear that neither the senior system, nor the junior development system is working that well.”

Lim also revealed that both SportSG and the FAS have been in discussions over how best to move Singapore football forward.

While admitting that the new FAS council, which only took office barely five months ago, will have to manage the expected transition in the local football ecosystem, Lim called on more stakeholders to come on board to lend their support to the sport here.

“I think there are a lot of players in the S.League feeling a bit concerned about the future now, and the FAS needs to manage this,” said Lim.

“There’s also been a lot of talk of the Garena Young Lions, and whether they should be disbanded or kept together. If it (disbands) then the transition will also require some management.

“So there’s been exchange of views (between SportSG and FAS), and I think we’re closer to a point of understanding each other to be able to forge a plan going forward.

“But I would like to…suggest that stakeholders who believe that other parts of the (football) ecosystem need support will come on board as well. The more stakeholders who come in to provide that level of support, we’ll get (back on track) faster. If you rely purely on public funding, it’s going to be a lot slower.”

Responding to queries from TODAY, Yazeen Buhari, FAS Deputy General Secretary (Strategy & Engagement) said on Tuesday: “FAS Executive Committee (Exco) have been in active discussion with Sports SG over the impending changes in local football including a change in the funding situation, and the question of youth development, among others.  It is thus not appropriate to make any comments about changes or next steps at this juncture.

“The FAS Council was elected by the football fraternity to not only lead but to represent the views of the fraternity.  As such we have been in close consultation with our stakeholders over the evolving football landscape.  We are grateful for, and will take onboard, the concerns of the community and public. 

“We recognise that football touches more people than any other sport and remains the nation's most popular sport played by both young and old, and where the performance of the national team matters greatly to a large number of Singaporeans. It is the only sport that has a full professional league and that brings challenges that is unique to football. The FAS Council's priority remains to work within these constraints for the betterment of the game, the community and Singapore.”