SINGAPORE — For more than two hours at a function room in the Metropolitan YMCA Singapore at Stevens Road on Wednesday (Sept 14), veteran local football official R Vengadasalam addressed 30-odd guests from the National Football League (NFL) and Island Wide League (IWL) where he shared his vision and plan for Singapore football.
With Venga — who is assembling a team to contest in the upcoming Football Association of Singapore elections — were lawyer Alfred Dodwell and freelance football consultant Ronnie Lee, as they presented a 34-page plan titled “For the betterment of Singapore football”.
The main takeaway for their audience is this: It is important to focus on local teams and develop a sustainable football ecosystem for Singapore starting from the grassroots.
Among some of the key points of Venga and his team’s manifesto was that the S.League should only have local teams. Currently, the league includes two foreign teams in Brunei DPMM and Albirex Niigata (S).
They also proposed to explore the option of a promotion and relegation system between the S.League and NFL, and promised to disband the Young Lions and National Football Academy (NFA) teams.
The purpose of this, they said, was to instill hunger in the players when they compete for places in the various national teams.
In addition, Venga also confirmed that Dodwell would be a member in his team. Dodwell is the first member that Venga has revealed since announcing two months ago that he would be forming a team to contest the elections.
After the meeting, Venga told TODAY that he was pleased with the response he got from the club representatives who turned up. He also said that he is still firming up his team line-up because of the constraints posed by the proposed changes to the FAS constitution.
“You can see from the clubs here that many are supportive of me and have grievances with the way football is currently run,” said Venga.
“There are some clubs who didn’t turn up but have already indicated that they will be supporting my team. The issues that these clubs have brought up are not new. I’ve heard them all before but the current FAS regime have failed to act on them.
“Unfortunately, the FAS’ proposed constitutional amendments which state that those intending to run for the senior positions must have been active in football for the last two years means we’ll have to look again at who we want in the team because it rules out some of our original members.
“That’s our next step now. To firm up our team and continue to engage the NFL and IWL clubs. We are not going to meet the S.League clubs because they receive seed funding from the FAS, so they’re not likely to want to vote for us.”
Meanwhile, Dodwell said he would be writing to the FAS to suggest minor changes to the proposed FAS constitutional amendment which requires nine of the 15 council members to be voted in as a team, and six members to be elected individually.
“Overall we think the constitution is fine, fair and well done, but there is one particular point that I hope they can amend,” said Dodwell.
“We hope they will include three more individual members in the council. This will ensure a healthy and equal footing within the council.
“If not, we could see a situation where the slate of nine could fail to heed the six individuals when making decisions in future as they will always have the majority vote.”
NFL and IWL club representatives told TODAY that they were impressed with the ideas that Venga had put up and would consider giving his team a chance.
“Whatever I’ve heard from Venga is good and it’s encouraging that he’s taking the NFL and IWL clubs more seriously,” said IWL club Warwick Knights’s head coach Patrick Vallee, who was the former coach of the now-defunct S.League outfits Etoile FC and Tanjong Pagar United.
“I’m impressed with their presentation and their ideas and you can see they genuinely want to build up a better future for Singapore football. I think it’s good that people can now choose which team will lead the FAS,” the Frenchman added.
Darwin Jalil, president of Eunos Cresent FC, added: “We would like to see a change from the FAS when they approach football at the grassroots level.
“When you look at the FAS today, the focus is all on the national team and the S.League, whereas the NFL and IWL are not given enough support and coverage.
“So I want to see the new FAS office-bearers looking at local football holistically, and giving us the resources to continue developing footballers, and recognise that we play an important role in producing a stream of players for the S.League clubs - all of which are what Venga has outlined.”
SOME KEY POINTS OF VENGA’S MANIFESTO
1. Have only local clubs in S.League.
2. Install a promotion/relegation format between S.League, the NFL and the IWL; more women teams for WL
3. Help NFL clubs become semi-pro outfits
4. Include NFL clubs in the Singapore Cup and League Cup competitions.
5. Assist clubs in getting access to fields for training.
6. Seek funding assistance for clubs for better coaching and administrative support.
7. Help clubs to work closely with schools’ football teams, set up grassroots academies for children, and establish U-14, U-16 and U-18 teams, and women teams.
8. Set up a Centre of Football Excellence for coaches, team managers and administrators to upgrade their skills.
9. Establish a foundation to help prepare players, coaches and officials for post-football careers.
10. Disband the Young Lions and NFA teams and release the players back to the clubs.