Interestingly, there has been a steady stream of letters to The Straits Times following national skipper Noh Alam Shah’s tirade against the S-League. And most of them do agree with the points he raised about the local domestic football tournament.
Pity then that most of them ended up in the forum section of the online edition of The Straits Times, instead of the print version.
I am highlighting three such letters because I felt that they best elaborate on Alam Shah’s frustrations about playing in the S-League. Maybe Football Association of Singapore president Zainuddin Nordin does not need to ask Alam Shah to show cause for his remarks. He only needs to read all these letters to have a better idea of why the Singapore football fan is rejecting his country’s own league.
Wake up, guys. The public have spoken. Seriously, it’s about time you guys have a good listen instead of always being on the defensive against criticism.
Yours in sport
Singapore Sports Fan
S-League turning into community league
(The Straits Times, Forum, 14 Sept 2009)
I FULLY support Noh Alam Shah and other S-League players who have seized an opportunity to further their careers overseas. I do not think anyone can accuse them of being disloyal to local football as they have played in the S-League for almost their entire careers, and have always played for the national team when called upon.
Although Alam Shah’s comments on the S-League and the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) were very direct, he raised some valid points which I hope the FAS will address.
• Direction of S-League: Where is the S-League going? After more than 10 years of the S-League, crowd turnouts are at an all-time low (or near that). Fan interest is waning, and the S-League resembles more a community league than a professional one. Is the FAS really happy with the way things are going? If our national players leave, I think fan turnout for each game will be only in the hundreds.
• Players’ careers: How much can a player really improve in the S-League? As a player, you want to test yourself against the best. The Indonesian Super League is able to attract better players simply because of the large budget it has. Good players are offered better pay packets and benefits. A footballer has a limited shelf life, so he has to make the most of his abilities to secure the best for himself and his family. What will the S-League and FAS do to retain their best players, now that they have a serious and attractive rival competing with them on their doorstep?
• Living in the past: If we keep gloating about how we are one of the top 10 leagues in Asia, we will get nowhere. Why cannot we strive to be one of the top five leagues in Asia? Even the Vietnam League has caught up with the S-League.
I think ‘poaching’ our star players by other neighbouring leagues is actually a good thing. Competition is always good. Our players will improve their skill levels, and it may finally wake the S-League and the FAS from their slumber.
Lim Teck Meng
5 reasons Noh Alam Shah is right in criticising S-League
(The Straits Times, Online Forum, 16 Sept 2009)
I READ with interest the recent comments about the S-League by Noh Alam Shah and the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) president’s reply asking him to back his claims.
A keen sportsman myself, I was tired of watching very rich and spoiled English Premier League players, so I turned to the S-League four years ago hoping to see good competition and sportsmanship. Never mind that the standard would be lower, but at least it was a league that I hoped was going somewhere.
Unfortunately, I grew more disillusioned as time went by. I am no fan of Alam Shah but frankly, he is absolutely right, and good on him for having the courage to speak out. It is a shame that the FAS president and management seem to be too arrogant or blind to the stagnation of the S-League.
Poor attendance is the result of several factors:
1) Non-competitive teams: The disparity between top and bottom teams is too wide. Tangible support needs to go to the lower teams or their disillusioned supporters will never return.
2) Low standard of players: This is to be expected in a young league in a small country. It can improve only if Singapore is willing to spend money and manage the league professionally. Foreign players and coaches should be of a much higher skill level (and paid accordingly) to bring up the local talent. Second-rate foreign players and coaches are a waste of time.
3) Lack of other entertainment: It need not be fancy, but at least have something pre-match and at half-time. I would rather listen to aspiring Singapore Idols and local musicians than twiddle my thumbs at the break and I’m sure these artists would do it free for the exposure.
4) Poor refereeing: Referees do try their best and one good thing about the S-League is that it’s relatively corruption-free. Unfortunately, these brave men need to have better training and stints overseas to improve. Stamp out the excessive time wasting and fake injuries that delay play and frustrate the fans.
5) Marketing: Perhaps, the FAS can engage some professional sports marketers to think a little more out of the box to create an appealing package and attract more sponsors.
At the end of the day what is lacking is vision, leadership and money.
I hope the Government and FAS can take on the challenge to turn around a league that is not in the Top 10 of Asia right now, but deserves to be, before it’s too late.
Being in Asia‘s top 10 soccer league is not enough
(The Straits Times, Online Forum, 16 Sept 2009)
THE article, “Alam Shah told to back claims” last Saturday again put the spotlight on the state of affairs of the S-League and our attempts to develop the commercial aspects of the sport.
The success and viability of the S-League would be compromised if spectatorship is dismal and falling. The fans know that and so it is of little comfort for them to be told that the Asian Football Confederation ranked the S-League among the top 10 leagues in Asia.
On the other hand, it is not fair to compare our S-League and fan base with that of other Asian countries like Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam, all of which have a much bigger population base.
The changing profile of Singapore’s population, which reflects a growing number and proportion of foreign residents and new citizens from overseas may further retard the growth of our football fan base. This is assuming that these residents have less interest in local football than native Singaporeans.
The fans and spectators are key stakeholders in the S-League. They are also the customers of the S-League. Do we know their profile and their needs? Do the product and services address their needs? How can we increase customer satisfaction levels? Is this what the customers want? Is the demand high enough to sustain the product? When do we pull the product off the shelf?
It is now timely for FAS to address these questions.
Lee Kai Yin