News • January 30, 2016

A Dialogue With Lim Chin, S.League CEO


Written by: Shawn Lim

“We need more Pennants”

Together with the buzz surrounding Jermaine Pennant’s arrival in Singapore football that has showed no signs of fizzling out yet, Great Eastern Yeo’s S.League CEO Lim Chin has urged local clubs and players to put their best foot forward for the upcoming season.

The CEO called for clubs to give their best effort both on and off the pitch throughout the upcoming season as it is the only way to attract more fans to matches.

He also urged the clubs to not only constantly engage Singaporeans in HDBs, kopi-tiams, schools and community clubs through outreach programmes, but play good competitive, high intensity football with lots of fighting spirit as these are the ingredients needed to build a fanbase.

Lim Chin explained that when clubs can demonstrate their desire to do well both on and off the pitch, their actions will be noticed and will see big corporations more willing to come forward.

The rewards will be twofold as clubs can acquire good marquee players who can act as brand ambassadors for these big corporations at the same time.

“At Komoco Showroom, I mentioned during the Tampines Rovers Press Conference that the signing of Pennant was only possible because Komoco, Supercars, Decathlon and Red Card came onboard and I hope more corporations can follow the lead and support Singapore football.” said Lim Chin.

“This is one way we can create a level of excitement in our S.League where we bring in superstars who would also love to come to Singapore to live and play football and it is a win-win for everyone.”

Even though he liked the marquee player scheme, Lim Chin was also keen to stress that there is a limit what the S.League can do to support the clubs.

“We took a bold step in 2013 and 2014 where we carved out enough money from our small budget to support four marquee players like Toda, Lee Kwan Woo, Monsef Zerka and Martin Wagner,” said the 54-year-old.

“For a long time we wanted a marquee player scheme but it never really took off. We decided to bite the bullet with the support of all the Chairmen, work with a limited budget, tighten our belts and forced the scheme through. In short, we made it happen.”

“Though there were mixed feelings about the (marquee players) scheme, I felt that the scheme was a success though limited in nature. There was certainly a buzz in the media, the players performed well – one was a top scorer and the other was voted Best Player of the Year – and the fans loved them.”

“The clubs have to work very hard and get the sponsors to come onboard. If the clubs can play good football, the players give more than 100 percent at every match and constantly every week reach out to the heartlands, I am confident the fans will turn up. That is a start.“

The challenges facing clubs

Despite the good high spirits in local football this year, a continuing problem worrying Lim Chin are the issues of rising operation costs and inflation, from players’ salaries to increasing facilities rental every year.

The league and the clubs are still finding ways to tackle these problems with the end goal of the all of clubs remaining in the black and not incurring debts.

Lim Chin feels that the way forward is to make clubs stronger both on and off the pitch as the intent of S.League is to make the league more competitive, exciting and sustainable.

One example was in 2014, when the league took a painful decision to reduce the number of clubs from 12 to 10, where Tanjong Pagar and Woodlands Wellington were asked to sit out.

The primary reason was that both clubs were in debt and if they were to continue competing last year, they would have been in dire straits.

“While it was great for Singapore football that Tampines Rovers found sponsors to support the signing of Pennant, the issue remains that if our other clubs don’t get stronger in terms of infrastructure and finance, it is very difficult for the S.League to progress.” said Lim Chin.

The merger between Hougang United and Woodlands Wellington was a pilot project mooted in late 2014 to make both clubs stronger both in infrastructure and finance, but unfortunately the merger was not feasible for implementation in the end.

“I think it was a good effort by both clubs nonetheless because at least we tried it and not simply do nothing,” said Lim Chin.

“I like to thank both clubs for their hard work and support in this project, and acknowledge acknowledge the leadership role played by Hougang’s chairman Bill Ng, who was appointed to spearhead the project.

“We will continue to explore other ways to meet our objective of strengthening Clubs with the long-term objective of a viable and sustainable and progressive S.League.”

Like other clubs who have been asked to sit out, Woodlands will continue to be involve with Singapore football through women’s football and grassroots football as they work to clear their remaining debts.

Lim Chin also made it clear that in the long run, clubs will need to find another source of revenue other than clubhouse operations.

That said, he was quick to point out that the clubhouse operations had supported the clubs for the past 20 years and is still the best asset that they can focus on to improve revenue streams.

That was one of the reasons behind FAS and S.League decision to appoint Ng in a voluntary role as an advisor for clubhouse operations.

Lim Chin feels that Ng is the right man for the job as Hougang runs the most successful clubhouse in the league to date and can share their best practices amongst the clubs from technical aspects to administration and clubhouse operations as well.

“Bill volunteered his time to help to all clubs who seek his advice. We would like to thank Bill in this regard and hope our clubs can benefit from a good SOP established by Bill at Hougang.” Some of the clubs who have worked with him are Geylang International and Woodlands Wellington.