SINGAPORE — S.League side Tampines Rovers has finally appointed a new chairman, more than two months after its last chief first announced that he would leave citing work commitments.
Lawyer Desmond Ong, a managing partner of legal firm JLC Advisors LLP, was appointed to the role by club advisor Desmond Choo effective last Wednesday (Aug 30). The Football Association of Singapore (FAS) confirmed the 48-year-old’s appointment in a media statement on Thursday (Sept 7).
Choo, who is a Member of Parliament (MP) for Tampines GRC, hailed Ong as a “highly qualified professional” who is “passionate about football”.
“I am confident that he (Ong) will be able to lead Tampines Rovers very well,” he said.
Added FAS Vice-President Edwin Tong: “The FAS is happy that the new Chairman of TRFC has been appointed. It is a demanding but rewarding responsibility, and an exciting time for Desmond to be involved as well, with the club’s recent return to Tampines Hub. We look forward to a fruitful relationship with him and the club.”
Ong is a veteran dispute resolution and corporate lawyer with over two decades of legal experience. Among his high profile cases include advising Nick Leeson in relation to the collapse of Barings Bank and representing City Harvest Church. He takes over the role from another corporate lawyer Krishna Ramachandra, who was the club’s chairman for just one-and-a-half years.
Ramachandra announced his decision to leave the club in June, saying that the “high demands” of his legal career had overtaken his ability to fulfil the role as Chairman.
During his tenure, Ramachandra had embarked on various initiatives to inject life and excitement into the club, such as the high-profile signing of former Liverpool and Arsenal attacker Jermaine Pennant in January last year. Other projects included a partnership with Brazilian football star Ronaldinho in December 2015 to set up an academy here.
However Pennant lasted only a season, while TODAY reported in May that the Ronaldinho-linked academy had closed down without conducting a single training session.
Financial woes also plagued Tampines during Ramachandra’s term. TODAY reported in April last year that the club was facing cash-flow issues and had sought financial assistance from the FAS. The five-time league champions also struggled to pay players’ wages last year.
Another outstanding financial issue facing the S.League outfit was a legal request from former sponsors Komoco Motors for the repayment of a sum of S$190,000, although the club has disputed the veracity of Komoco’s claims.
Tampines also needs to pay off a S$750,000 interest-free “credit line” loan, which they took from Taiwanese company Nogle in July last year. They are expected to start doing so in installments from next year.
Ramachandra had said in June that he would only step down after dealing with all of the club’s financial obligations. He left the club on Aug 22.
Ong, who has been cited by Asian Legal Business as one of the “Hottest 100 lawyers” in Asia, said taking over Tampines Rovers was a “heavy responsibility”.
He said: “I am humbled to be appointed the new Chairman of Tampines Rovers...I will work hand in hand with Mr Choo, the other members of the TRFC Committee and the FAS to ensure that the Club strives for football excellence as well as increased community participation.”