IS the National Football League (NFL) dominating the new FAS (Football Association of Singapore) Council?
If this is true, it’s going to be a very sad day for Singapore football as the overall priorities will now take a topsy-turvy turn and pandemonium may well be the order of the day at the FAS administration.
The sudden high-profile status of the previously-redundant NFL was plain to see in the run-up to the April 29 first-ever democratic FAS elections. They suddenly became the talk-of-football-town simply because the NFL garnered 24 votes, close to 60 per cent of the total number of voting numbers.
No wonder at one closed-door meeting FAS President-candidate Lim Kia Tong, before the elections, exclaimed: “I will take over the NFL!”
Truly a mind-blowing remark considering Lim, who has been a Council Member for about 18 years, has never come for a NFL match. But a couple of days before the elections, he makes this tempting electioneering remark because he knew his longer-term fate depended on the lower-rung clubs.
The National Football League (NFL) is an amateur competition for clubs that are affiliated to the FAS. There are two divisions in the league, with 12 teams in Division One and 11 teams in Division Two.
Lim also did it, out of sheer desperation, because the NFL clubs have persistently moaned and groaned that they have been neglected in recent years with a lack of financial, administration and low-morale support, under the previous S. Thavaneson-regime.
But he instantly promised them a slew of changes with higher priority for the NFL Division One and Two clubs with a short-term goal of even getting them into the 22-year-old S-League.
Indeed, all wishful thinking promises, which even today coming close to 100 days of the Lim takeover, has hardly materialised.
But what’s immediately worrying on the purported dominance of the NFL in the new FAS Council is a recent letter that’s circulating the football fraternity of how a high-ranking NFL club official, also a newly-minted council member, merely got a token slap on the wrist for angrily confronting a referee.
The charges against him were reportedly severe as he allegedly charged at the match-officials, with the referee being the primary target, after a NFL match, where his title-winning team lost and a senior player sent off. According to post-match reports submitted, he brought the game to disrepute and used disrespectful words and even pulling rank that he was a FAS Council Member.
WHERE’S STERN ACTION?
For a FAS Council member, who is also a NFL team manager, confronting a match-official is a serious demeanour and usually warrants stern action, as a timely example to the players, officials and even fans that the FAS never tolerates such unsporting behaviour in any officially-sanctioned tournament.
It is believed that this is the first time a FAS Council Member has been brought to task for disrespectful behaviour to match-officials.
But in a letter signed by a junior FAS official in the Competitions Department, dated May 26 2017, he was merely given a “warning” when that letter should be signed by the FAS General Secretary, considering that the offender was a FAS Council Member in the highest 15-member decision-making body.
In my opinion, anyone, team official, player or even fan, who confronts the match-officials deserve stern action as an appropriate example to the football fraternity. Likewise, I know FAS-affiliated referees are always trained to be fair, professional and respectful — but firm and decisive, when addressing team officials.
In this case, if the post-match dissent becomes public, personal, or provocative, the irresponsible behaviour clearly endangers or undermines the match-officials’ ability to manage the match, the FAS should act swiftly with deterrent action, with a touch-line ban.
Definitely not a token “warning letter”, as it smacks of possible favouritism since he’s a FAS Council Member.
The only way to curb confrontations against the football judges is to implement tougher penalties that will work as a strict deterrent, without fear or favour. There’s no room for reckless behaviour and referees deserve maximum protection.
LAW AND ORDER
The NFL is always viewed as a potential erupting volcano and chaos is bound to happen in places where law is not enforced.
“The FAS has the highest responsibility to ensure law and order, especially in areas involving the match-officials,” says football fan Lionel Lee of Balestier Road. “:I fully believe that better behaviour by everyone involved in football, from players, coaches, parents and even fans may be the simplest way to protect officials.”
Remember, this is no joking matter: Young players imitate what they see on television and take cues from adults on the sidelines.
Let’s look at serious ways to deal with pre-match or post-match violence against the match-officials. Offering a mere warning is like a simple slap on the wrist, is the most lenient of punishments, which may well be a very dangerous message to send to the grassroots – especially if the errant official is a FAS Council Member.
Plain and simple: Referee-abuse of every form must stop and those who dare challenge their authority must have the disciplinary-book thrown at them in the hardest possible way.
- Suresh Nair is a Singapore-based journalist who has covered varying roles at the FAS and S-League as match commissioner, referee, referee instructor and licenced coach. He also sat on the board of Tampines Rovers when the S-League started in 1996.
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