For The Record...
"In an interview with Yahoo! Singapore, Zainudin (Nordin, FAS President) reiterated that the S-league will not become a "poorer cousin" once the LionsXII start their Malaysia Cup campaign."

Thursday, March 18, 2021

[Guest Column] - Unleash The Roar: Do it well, or lose the fans forever

This article is contributed by Mr Stanley Ho who is sharing his opinions on the recently announced "UNLEASH THE ROAR!" initiative by both SportSG and Football Association of Singapore.

Disillusioned local football fans must be convinced this is not yet another paper exercise

IF COMMENTS on social media pages are anything to go by, a plan that was drafted to unite the nation through football has divided it.

On the one hand is a relatively small group of proponents who embraced the lofty blueprint with cautious optimism. And these are made up largely of people who are involved in some way in the local football ecosystem.

"Unleash The Roar!" was unveiled last week (credit: FAS)
On the other is the majority of your ordinary citizens who greeted the mere mention of 2034 World Cup with ridicule. Many of these people just couldn’t care less, especially when there are more pressing needs to be met amid a pandemic.

But, among the non-believers is a particular group that intrigues me - the jilted lovers of Singapore football.

They were fans. In the past, many of them believed too. They had shared the dream and believed in the process. Alas, year after year, they were fed false hopes during glitzy project launches and suffered one disappointment after another. They witnessed some highs and many lows of the national team; they grieved at the decline of the local league; they were appalled at scenes of police officers raiding clubs and association; their hearts palpitated with every failed polygraph test; and eventually gave up after anecdotes of grossly underpaid young players convinced them there is no pathway towards sustainable professional football.

Even prior to anyone unleashing the roar, they have already heard and seen it all before: Milo Scheme; Goal 2010; National Football Academy; mini football; grassroots football; LionsXII; Prime League; Foreign Talent Scheme; foreign clubs in local league; ever-changing U23 quotas; play the Danish way, then Belgian way, then Japanese way and they wonder what’s the flavour of the month next? Gegenpressing? Ja, das ist richtig.

The football authorities rightly pointed out that a “whole-of-society” effort is required in order to succeed. That means having an entire nation believing in the cause and putting their weight behind it. A national buy-in. Herein lies the problem: The jilted lovers have lost faith in Singapore football after years of systemic failure, and they have chosen to get their football joy from fading YouTube footage of the 1994 Malaysia Cup Final and weekly doses of English Premier League.

Minister Edwin Tong started the ball rolling in 2019 (file picture)
Metaphorically, they have walked out of the stadium during a 8-0 thrashing before full time is up, hoping to spare themselves more misery. There will be no national buy-in, the society will not be whole. Years of neglect had left Singapore football fragmented, with the victims doubtful and fearful of being hurt once again.

It’ll take hell of a lot to win back the hearts of these jilted lovers. But it can be done. Prove that you mean business by unleashing the roar and not meow out a whimper; prove that your actions match your gumption; prove that this is not just another paper exercise that ends up beside Goal 2010 along the hall of shame.

The folks who were disappointed during Goal 2010 are now parents of the very kids we are trying to groom for 2035. Disappoint them once again and there may not be a third generation to convince.

Fail and Singapore football will lose these fans forever. I know, for I belong to the jilted too.


ABOUT THE WRITER

Stanley Ho spent almost two decades in the newsrooms of Mediacorp and Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) before entering the social service sector as an advocacy and communications professional. A multiple award-winning journalist, his career highlights include breaking a series of high-profile stories on match-fixing in football; leading a digital news team at Mediacorp’s TODAYonline; and being synonymous with Facebookie, his SPH Headline of the Year in 2013.
  • Opinions expressed may not be that of the blog owner
  • The copyright of this article belongs to Mr Stanley Ho

Sunday, February 28, 2021

What Those IG Story Polls Tell Me About The Untapped Potential of Local Club Merchandise

Did a number of IG Story polls not that long ago to gauge the sentiment among the local football supporters by starting off with this question - Would you buy any official local football merchandise?

It was an overwhelming 92% said "YES" that they are willing to fork out from their wallets to pay for any official merchandise offered by the local clubs.

This is the outcome of the first poll of the series 

REPLICA JERSEY - THE MOST DESIRABLE MERCHANDISE
Another poll was followed up to ask which type of official merchandise is the most desirable item from a list which comprised

(1) "Official replica jersey",
(2) "T-Shirt (with club logo, mascot, players),
(3) "Caps, scarves, mini flags" and
(4) "Pins, Badges, Keychain, Cup, Mugs"

Apparently, replica team jersey is the most desirable merchandise should any fan decided to buy one product from our local clubs.

Later on, I posted a pragmatic question - how much you are willing to pay for one official replica jersey?

The most desirable merchandise

< S$50 / JUSTIFICATION OF CLUB LOYALTY 
I am not sure if the current unfavourable climate factored a sizeable group to opt for the price range of less than 50 Singapore Dollar with less than half of the aforementioned willing to pay more than that figure.

However, in between the above-mentioned two saw another group stated money is not an issue when come to justify one's loyalty and support for his or her favourite team.

At the meantime, most would prefer to buy their official merchandise from online stores with lesser numbers would opt for either buying their stuff from a retail outlet at a mall or cash-and-carry at any club office.

Why "YOU" buy the replica jersey?

UNTAPPED MARKET OUT THERE?
Nevertheless, with this merchandise market still largely an untapped market at this moment, it is not surprising to see fans went to club offices to purchase their desired merchandise although the same number claimed they bought their stuff online.

Before I move on to conclude my thoughts on these findings, I wish to stress that those data gathered are meant to be both unofficial and unaffiliated purposes for my own reference only.

Given the niche group that responded and took part in these IG Story polls, I do not think it is fair to conclude the outcome as a reflection of the real picture but as a sample reference only.


How much would you pay for one replica jersey?

Overall, it is safe to say there is a demand for official merchandise if being offered by any of local football clubs based on the 92% who responded "YES" with a replica jersey being the most sought after item.

However, cost remain a deciding factor before any transaction is made, although fans' loyalty to their supported club is also a key factor when buying any replica jersey.

ONLINE PURCHASE / "CASH-AND-CARRY"
On the other hand, online purchasing seems to be the preferred mode for those who already bought or intend to buy any official merchandise from any club but "cash-and-carry" from club offices, nonetheless, seems to be another widely used available option.


Where fans bought their merchandise 

Where fans hope to buy their merchandise from?

Perhaps, a more in depth survey should be carried out by parties who are authority in this aspect to have a clearer understanding of the sentiment to gauge if merchandising, one of the important revenue generators for professional sporting clubs around the world, is something worth look into for the clubs with privatization is within the horizon.

Monday, February 01, 2021

Tigers Heading Back To Toa Payoh For A Short While ...

Following up to the update by this platform weeks ago that reported Balestier Khalsa will play their 2021 Singapore Premier League (SGPL) home fixtures at the Toa Payoh Stadium after the field at Bishan Stadium, where the Tigers ground share with Lion City Sailors (previously known as Home United) since 2019, is closed for returfing.

Toa Payoh Stadium (file picture)

Works, apparently, are underway to see the field at the Toa Payoh Stadium getting ready for the upcoming SGPL season which is speculated to kick off at the end of February.

In a social media post seen by this platform, officials from the Football Association of Singapore, Sport SG, etc. came together to ensure the natural grass surface of the Toa Payoh Stadium meet the requirements of the only professional sporting competition of the republic.

NOT A PERPETUAL MOVE BACK HOME FOR TIGERS
However, it is understood that Balestier's shifting back to the aged arena at Toa Payoh Lorong Six is not a perpetual one, even though it has been the spiritual home for the 2014 Singapore Cup winners since the inaugural of the S.League in 1996 when the club was known as Balestier Central FC (the club still maintain its administrative office at the stadium).

One evening match played at Toa Payoh Stadium (file)

With a 5,000-seater football stadium that is part of the new Punggol Regional Sports Centre (RSC), some SGPL clubs are likely to see themselves being relocated to the north-eastern part of the island when the centre is completed in few years down the road **

Furthermore, in an announcement made by the Ministry of Culture, Community, and Youth (MCCY) in last June, a multi-agency collaboration led by SportSG, with the Ministry of Health, National Library Board and National Parks Board will looking into developing a new integrated development comprising a sport centre, polyclinic, library and town park in Bishan and Toa Payoh area.

Kristijan Krajček stay put with Balestier in 2021 

Nonetheless, the Tigers have been alternate their pre-season trainings at the Toa Payoh Stadium with St Wilfred Fields in their tuning up for the upcoming season and being the first in the league to confirm their import quota when they announced over the past recent weeks on their social media platforms of the contractual extension of Ensar Brunčević, Kristijan Krajček, Shuhei Hoshino while Šime Žužul is on a two-year deal since the end of 2019.

** The Punggol RSC was scheduled to complete by 2023 but could see a delay due to the ongoing Covid19 situation.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Ground Hopping Continues ...

Bishan Stadium is under the re-turfing process
This is current condition of the field of Bishan Stadium, the designated "home" ground of two Singapore Premier League (SGPL) clubs - Lion City Sailors and Balestier Khalsa, as seen from the nearby Bishan Sports Hall days ago.

It was learned that such re-turfing of the natural grass surface would take approximately five to six months to complete and the process only begun late last year.

NEW SEASON K.O. IN LATE FEB
One recent Straits Times article suggested the Community Shield, the annual pre-season opener for the SGPL, will be staged on 20th February.

If it is what the mentioned broadsheet suggested, the 2021 SGPL season is likely to kick off on the following weekend based on past scheduling of fixtures.

However, given the present condition of the Bishan surface, it is understood Balestier Khalsa will play their home fixtures at Toa Payoh Stadium while LCS will be ground sharing the newly-refurbished Jalan Besar Stadium (JBS) with Young Lions for the upcoming season.

HOUGANG STAY PUT IN HOUGANG FOR UPCOMING SEASON
The likelihood of the above-mentioned arrangement is high when it is also understood that Hougang United will continue to play their home fixtures at their spiritual Hougang Stadium home base.

Hougang Hools will be cheering their heroes at their spiritual abode in 2021
This will be second successive season to see reallocation of home grounds when last year saw Hougang United and Young Lions played their home games at Hougang Stadium and Jurong West Stadium respectively since the ground sharing initiative of SGPL clubs started in 2019.

Prior to that, both Cheetahs and Young Lions played their home fixtures at JBS who was closed during the 2020 season to allow repair works to be carried out.

This platform had reached out to Football Association of Singapore (FAS) for comment.

Friday, January 01, 2021

"United" All Over The Shop - Trend OR Reality?

Called it an obsession or mere British influence when it is not uncommon in this part of the world to name a football club as whatsoever "United".

Just look around the region, you already have Buriram United, Bangkok United and Muangthong United in Thailand where national custodian Hassan Sunny used to play for the dissolved Army United.

Down south in Malaysia, there is a team rebranded as Kuala Lumpur United which is formerly known as Kuala Lumpur FA - the team that once boasted the likes of Singapore triumvirate of Fandi Ahmad, Malek Awab and K Kanan in their 1980s heydays.

BRITISH INFLUENCE RESULTED UNITED EVERYWHERE?
On the other end of the Causeway in Singapore, names like Farrer Park United, Toa Payoh United were some of those listed in the then-newly formed National Football League (NFL) in the mid-1970s.

Moving into mid-1990s, these were the names to mark the start of the professional era like Geylang United (which later changed to Geylang International), Tiong Bahru United (later Tanjong Pagar United), Gombak United, Home United (now Lion City Sailors after the privatisation) and Hougang United.

Tanjong Pagar United used to be known as Tiong Bahru United
However, having a closer look at things some may be thinking why named as "United" when some of these Singapore teams are not amalgamated club to begin with.

Sit-out club Gombak United traced their roots to that of Redhill Rangers which was founded in 1980s before their first admission to the S.League in 1998.

At the beginning, they were called International Contract Specialists Football Club (ICSFC) who later renamed as Geylang International and based themselves at Geylang Field along Geylang Lorong 12 during the NFL era.

The start of the professionalism, however, saw the club registered as Geylang United in 1996 but reverted to Geylang International in 2013.

Based on the aforementioned, there is no evidence to suggest any form of merging of different entities along the process to see those clubs named as "United".

HOME UNITED THEM ALL?
Depend on individual interpretation, when the managing of Police FC, one of the pioneering eight clubs of the S.League, was handed over to Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), the club was renamed as Home United in 1997.

As such, Home United was qualified as a "United" not just a club that represented only the police force but including other services under the jurisdiction of MHA like Civil Defence Forces and the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority.

On the other hand, Tiong Bahru United only saw themselves widen up their catchment area to see themselves as a team representing a wider Tanjong Pagar Group Representation Constituency (GRC) which also did not see any merging of clubs along the way.

Perhaps the best example to illustrate the correct use of "United" in local professional football is Hougang United which emerged from the merging of both Sengkang Marine and Paya Lebar Punggol to form Sengkang Punggol before changed to their current name in 2011.

ENGLISH EXAMPLES
It is widely accepted that Sheffield United is the oldest existing football club in the world to be named "United" even though the club was founded by the cricket club of the same name in 1889.

Clubs like Leeds United, Manchester United shown no traces of combining of separate entities that led to the naming of their clubs either.

Leeds United was founded in 1919 to take over the tenancy of Elland Road after the dissolution of Leeds City by the Football League while the name Manchester United was selected from the list that comprised Manchester Central and Manchester Celtic after the club was no longer based in Newton Heath on 26 April 1902.

Jubilant Manchester United fans in 2019 ICC 
Newcastle United, however, is one of the known top flight clubs being a product of the amalgamated process that witnessed the merger of Newcastle East End and Newcastle West End in 1892.

So it is noteworthy to conclude the name of team as "United" is not necessary due to combination of two or more entities but could also seen as something trendy in the Victorian and Edwardian era in England, although in this part of the world it should be seen as a case of British influence.

Nonetheless, the use of the word "United" was taken to a new level when Philippines club Ceres-Negros FC changed its name to United City FC which may sounded weird to some football purists.

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