Club bosses misjudge fan reactions

Club bosses misjudge fan reactions
Tanjong Pagar United vice-captain Hafiz Osman was among those affected by a controversial rule which dictated that each local S-League club could sign only five players over age 30. Even though the rule has been abolished, he is planning to establish a players’ union to safeguard a better future for the players.

SINGAPORE - When the S-League club chairmen met in August to try and tackle the problem of their ageing domestic league, little did they foresee the backlash the subsequent age-restriction rule would have.

Both they and the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) have now admitted that they had miscalculated how the rule, which capped the number of Singaporean players aged 30 and above to five for each local club next season, would be widely criticised by the public.

Almost a month into the saga, during which the FAS has reversed its decision, hindsight has provided ample time for reflection by the heads of the eight local clubs.

"We probably misjudged the public's reaction to the rule," Balestier Khalsa chairman S. Thavaneson told The Sunday Times on Friday.

Their other misstep was to believe - wrongly - that the directive would fall under the scope of competition regulations and therefore not run afoul of employment policies or be seen as discriminatory.

But it did, as anti-discrimination watchdog Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (Tafep) met with FAS' director of operations Kok Wai Leong to seek clarification on Nov 17, just two weeks after the rule was announced.

That discussion was described as amicable and productive by a source but it set about a series of urgent meetings between the S- League club chairmen, which eventually led to the U-turn by FAS in dropping the age rule.

Why were these sce narios not being considered when the chairmen came up with the controversial rule?

Thavaneson believed that these lapses came about because he and his fellow administrators had become fixated on the alarming statistics presented to them by the FAS earlier this year.

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