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Possible Revival of Merlion Cup With This New MOU?

Can the "Kallang Roar" return to National Stadium
Will the three-year Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Football Association of Singapore (FAS) and SportsHub Pte Ltd, the operators of Singapore Sports Hub, signed days ago set the pace to see the much-awaited revival of the Merlion Cup in the local football calendar?

In the recent years, futile attempts were made to revive the invitational tournament, last staged in 2009 as an one-off fixture when English side Liverpool were featured against the Singapore national team, in the iconic 55,000-capacity National Stadium.

The well-documented spat back in late 2015 between SportsHub and MP & Silva, FAS commercial and media rights partner, over the venue rental costs eventually had the plan shelved indefinitely after talks between both parties broke down.

Reason why FAS did not organize Merlion Cup in 1987 (source: NST)
Since the reopening of the National Stadium in mid 2014, for the Lions to play in this cornerstone of the Sports Hub seems to be something of a luxury and have to make do with 11 out of the possible 22 home fixtures at the smaller venues like Jalan Besar Stadium, Hougang Stadium.

Under the new agreement, the both organizations have committed to a minimum of seven matches to be played at the Sports Hub with a "Home of the Lions" initiative in place to generate deeper engagement with the community through activities like football festivals and stadium tours, according to the joint media release issued by both FAS and SportsHub.

When asked if the revival of tournaments such as the Merlion Cup and Lion City Cup would help to fulfill the minimum requirement of games to be played at the National Stadium, FAS said they will be working together with SportsHub on those relevant aspects following the announcement of the said MOU.

In an email reply to this blog, FAS Deputy Director (Marketing) Rikram Singh said:"The Football Association of Singapore and the Singapore Sports Hub are working together to finalise the calendar of events and matches that will both excite fans and create a vibrant slew of activities at the Home of the Lions. More details on these upcoming matches and activities will be announced in due course." 

Still a long way to go before have this being a common sight at Kallang
However, with year 2018 being the World Cup year, there might be a tendency that many marquee teams and names may decline any invitation from the Republic in order to prepare for the greatest show on earth, even though the International Champions Cup (ICCSG) will be staging its second edition at the National Stadium in few months down the road.

It would also be difficult to entice these top quality sides to play friendly matches here in Singapore given the evolution that taken place in the game for past decades, an opinion shared with this blogger by a game analyst.

"It will be a very good treat for the fans if we are able to invite strong foreign age-group teams or even full national teams for a mini-tournament series like the Merlion Cup." said Tam Cheong Yan, a longtime observer of local football.

"But it may not be as easy as it was, say, twenty years ago. Football standards around the world have changed, and top-billing teams like England, Uruguay or even Japan are going to need a lot of persuading to come here and play against Singapore.

"But those are the kind of teams fans want to see. They may not respond so well if we secure good but not-so-glamorous opponents - and even those teams will take some convincing to decide to come here."

** UPDATE: FAS replied to the query sent by this blog and this entry is being updated with the reply from the relevant official on 3rd of March 2018. **


  1. Fact - The last proper Merlion Cup tourney was in 1992, not 1986.

  2. Seriously, if there are plans to kick start this event, we should make in road plans for the next two years.

    The idea is to introduced the U14 tournament and get the team in charge to looking for potential players and build the squad.

  3. I had an exchange with an sports journalist here on FB about the Merlion Cup recently, and I mentioned something like the tournament is “like our secondary school crash (sic) that we always dream off, but no one (else) is interested”. But with the latest MOU, our hope reignited! Perhaps we will meet that secondary school crash (sic) again and both of us are still available after all these years! ������
    But jokes aside, I think to pull off the tournament and make it successful, we need to follow the old Chinese formula: 天时,地利,人和, timing, place and people for English readers.
    The place of course will be our Singapore Sports Hub, no doubt.
    Timing will be tricky. With such hectic football schedule nowadays, there is actually very little window for friendly tournaments like Merlion Cup. Realistically there is only two windows: one the European off-season in July-August period, the other the Asian or most specifically East Asian off-season period in Jan-Feb, where some European teams also having their winter breaks. With the ICC the Jul-Aug window, the Merlion Cup can only fit into the Jan-Feb window to avoid consumer fatigue.
    Yet the most important part, the people. What kind of team will come? What kind of team can we field? Who the fans here want to watch? I hope that being one of the J.League partner nation, one of the J.League side can come and play one of their J.League Asia Challenge match here, and we can “test water” and see if fans here will fill stadium if one of the top Asian club side visit. Important to know that to fill up a stadium as big as the Sports Hub, we need more than fair-weathered fans, people who go because it’s an occasion, it’s an event, and not just a football match or tournament.
    Finally we need to ask ourselves how reviving the Merlion Cup will serve Singapore football. There used to be fewer international football matches between countries, the choice for people on tv is also limited, so the Merlion Cup serves a purpose of showcasing football of higher level in front of our people, while exposing our players to higher standard of play. These days with the technology, we can watch all the top leagues in the world in our living room, while there are most international matches these days as well, be it at club or country level. So we really need to ask ourselves whether the Merlion Cup that we are advocating to revive will have a purpose in Singapore football.

  4. It just excuses.

    Simple fact: if you are for youth development - it does not matter if no one come to watch.

    It doesn't have to be a glamour show, in which its failure to happen, will result in a lost batch or generation of football talents.


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