High time for S-League revamp

By Chia Han Keong

IT IS high time for the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) to do to the S-League what it did to the national football team - disband and revamp.

Yesterday, coach Raddy Avramovic announced a 33-man provisional national squad that included seven new players to play a series of friendly games in preparation for the 2014 World Cup qualifiers.

It was the first Lions roster since FAS president Zainudin Nordin disbanded the whole team in January, after a dismal showing at the regional Suzuki Cup.

Out went the likes of Noh Alam Shah, Baihakki Khaizan and Ridhuan Muhamad. In came youngsters like Delwinder Singh, Andrew Tan and Izwan Mahbud.

While Avramovic took pains to emphasise that he is not abandoning those left out of this squad list, he also said repeatedly that he wants to see what the new players can offer.

More importantly, the FAS has given a clear indication that it does not tolerate sub-par performances, even from established national players.

One wishes that it can do the same with the floundering S-League.

To be fair, it has done plenty to try and boost the dwindling attendances of the league. Just this season, it has increased seed money for the 12 clubs, and secured more live television coverage for its matches.

Yet, for every improvement made, it suffers another unsavoury episode of player unruliness or club mismanagement that drains away whatever iota of appeal the league may have.

Yesterday should have heralded a new beginning for the national team. Yet, it was overshadowed by Monday's pre-match fracas between defending S-League champions Etoile FC and Hougang United.

For the first time in the league's 16-year history, a match was called off even before it began. It is another self-inflicted, embarrassing black eye for the league.

No doubt, questions will be raised about the viability of foreign teams in the league, given that most of them do not add value to the league, do not bring in fans from their native country and, in some cases, even brought infamy.

Will FAS act bravely as it did with the national team, and put an end to the S-League's dalliance with foreign teams?

While it is at it, shouldn't it try and explore other competition formats than the over-long, 33-game season, one in which fans lose interest even before the halfway mark?

Perhaps an 11-game regular season, coupled with an eight-team knockout play-off for the title, can liven up the moribund competition.

The FAS has done well in refreshing the national squad. It now has to look hard at its key product, and take drastic steps to prevent the S-League from sliding into something no one cares about.

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