Singapore Premier League • February 11, 2024
Interim pre-season tournament planned as SPL gears up for upcoming 2024-25 season
SINGAPORE, 11 FEBRUARY 2024 – In a move geared towards optimizing player readiness for the 2024–25 Singapore Premier League (SPL) season that will start in May, the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) announces the introduction of an Interim Pre-Season Tournament.
The Interim Pre-Season tournament serves two objectives: firstly, serving as a vital component in ensuring that local based National Team players maintain match fitness ahead of the upcoming FIFA World Cup qualifiers against China in March. Secondly, it will ensure that SPL players are adequately prepared for an extended SPL season that will span nearly 12 months.
This initiative is one of several strategic revisions to SPL Regulations for the upcoming season that were made in consultation with, and with agreement from SPL clubs.
Interim Pre-Season Tournament: A Strategic Lead-Up
The Interim Pre-Season Tournament is a proactive measure which aligns seamlessly with the imminent 2024–25 SPL season – set to commence in May – and aims to effectively shorten the gap in competitive activity since the conclusion of the 2023 Singapore Cup in early December.
Beginning 23 February to 21 April 2024, the Interim Pre-Season Tournament will comprise a single-round modified league format, with a total of 20 matches played across five game weeks, with rankings to be based on accumulated points.
The tournament will also enable the clubs to adequately prepare their players in terms of physical conditioning, match fitness, and overall performance levels for the extended season to come. Given the intricacies of football, which necessitate a sustained engagement with competitive play, an extended period of inactivity could potentially influence the players’ ability to sustain peak performance.
Extending beyond the players, the tournament will also give important preparation time for coaches and backroom staff, who are pivotal figures in shaping and optimizing team performance. Professional football, by nature, requires an uninterrupted and dynamic engagement with the sport, and any deviation from this rhythm can subtly shape the players’ growth, skill development, and competitive edge. Hence the interim tournament will serve to mitigate this by reducing the time that the coaches are away from their players during the off season.
From a National Team perspective, the interim tournament will help players work towards peak fitness as well as be a platform where they can demonstrate their preparedness and availability for National Team call-up selection for two upcoming World Cup qualifiers against China in March.
Tournament Changes: Adapting to Global Calendars
Transition season in 2024
In response to changes in Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Club Competitions and potential FIFA International Calendar amendments, the SPL calendar will undergo a two-year transition process. The 2024-25 season will kick off on 4 May 2024, featuring the traditional Community Shield match, followed by the league proper a week later, concluding in May 2025. Subsequently, the 2025-26 SPL season will align with AFC Club Competitions, starting in August 2025 and concluding in May 2026, setting the timeline for subsequent seasons. This move is important in terms of aligning transfer windows, as well as allowing for the easier calendaring of national or regional club tournaments – whether at the FIFA, AFC or ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) level.
Singapore Cup Evolution: Integration with League Calendar
The next edition of the Singapore Cup will uphold its group stage plus knockout format. Scheduled to start in January 2025 and conclude by the end of May, the Singapore Cup will seamlessly integrate with the league calendar instead of having a dedicated period.
Increase in the Number of Competitive Matches
Should the participating number of clubs remain at nine, the upcoming season will see a four-round format where each club will play each other four times in a season, instead of just three in seasons past. A longer season with more matches would ensure that there would be a need to use the squad, thus allowing more opportunities for all players to get minutes. In the event of a tenth club being inducted, the FAS will revise the fixture format accordingly nearer to the season kick-off.
Tournament Changes: A Deeper Dive into Competition Dynamics
Changes to Team Composition: Crafting a Strategic Roster
Foreign Player Dynamics:
The 2024-25 season introduces a nuanced approach to team composition regulations. The FAS has decided to move towards AFC rules for its competitions to ensure that local clubs will be as competitive as possible when they fly the Singapore flag on the continent. Each club squad must consist of a minimum 18 professional players and a maximum of 25 players. Each club can now register a maximum of nine foreign players, subject to specific criteria, including representation from an AFC Member Association and three players under the age of 21 at the point of registration.
Match Day Squad Setup:
On match days, clubs must field a minimum of five local players, which is in line with the quota set by the AFC for its club competitions. The requirement for local clubs (excluding the Young Lions) to field a minimum of one Under-23 player of Singaporean nationality during the entire first half of a match has been lifted. As more U-23 players have also been signed on by clubs, this rule change would help raise the overall standard of play in the league. The long-term strategy to prepare the young players for regional competitions remains in force alongside it – the Young Lions will continue to act as a platform for young players to test themselves in a competitive professional league.
SPL Fitness Tests: Transition to Data-Driven Approach
Starting from the 2024–25 season, mandatory fitness tests for SPL players will transition to a more data-driven approach. Comprehensive data analytics facilitated through technical GPS tracking will provide nuanced insights into player performance and fitness levels. Sports trainers equipped to handle advanced analytics will be provided to all SPL clubs.
The SPL’s strategic changes for the 2024–25 season will enhance the competitiveness of the league and contribute to the long-term sustainability and appeal of Singaporean football.