Football: Long live King George's

Football: Long live King George's
MILESTONE: LionsXII defender Baihakki Khaizan celebrating his goal — the first scored in front of the Jalan Besar Stadium’s King George’s Stand — against Kelantan in the Malaysian Super League in 2012.

Baihakki Khaizan rose above a sea of defenders and nodded the immaculate cross by Shahdan Sulaiman into the far corner of the Kelantan goal.

The moment his feet touched the ground, the LionsXII defender raced behind the goal and into the warm embrace of the fans at Jalan Besar Stadium's King George's Stand (KGS).

It was the first goal scored in front of the stand, in a Singapore side's first appearance in the Malaysian Super League (MSL) in 18 years, and it looked like the start of something special.

While the LionsXII fell 2-1 to Kelantan that day in 2012, the team went on to finish second in the MSL that season.

They roared to the title the following season but, as the fortunes of the LionsXII dipped in 2014, so did fan numbers, with fewer and fewer opting to sit behind the goal adjacent to King George's Avenue.

It looked as if the temporary seating area for 1,500 spectators would be removed this year before the LionsXII kick off the 2015 MSL campaign next month, as the licence required to keep the stand operational runs out this Sunday.

When contacted yesterday, though, the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) revealed that moves are underway to keep the stand in place for another year.

And that is welcome news, especially when the opening round of the football competition for the 2015 South-east Asia (SEA) Games here in June will be held at the Jalan Besar Stadium.

FUNDING

When contacted by The New Paper yesterday, FAS director of marketing and communications Gerard Wong said: "We are working with Sports Singapore in extending the licence for the stand and we'll sort out details of funding with Sport SG later."

The LionsXII open their 2015 MSL campaign on Feb 7 away to PDRM (Shah Alam Stadium).

The second match is also away on Feb 14 against Kelantan.

Their first home game will be against Perak on Feb 21 and Fandi Ahmad's side can now hope for a capacity crowd of 7,500 to turn up and roar them on.

The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) require temporary structures like the stand to have Fire Safety Certificates.

In a statement, the SCDF told The New Paper that if an application was not made to extend the King George's Stand licence, it would have to be torn down next week.

"Two extensions were granted by the SCDF in April 2012 and February 2014 for the continued use of the KGS at Jalan Besar Stadium, with the second extension expiring on Jan 25, 2015," said the SCDF in their statement.

"The extensions were granted on the understanding that the KGS is used as an interim measure to increase the seating capacity of the stadium pending the completion of the Sports Hub.

"Upon expiry of the extension on Jan 25, 2015, the KGS has to be removed."

Besides the SCDF, the FAS would also have to get approval from other agencies, including the Singapore Police Force, for the stand to remain in place.

TNP understands the SCDF have yet to receive an application to extend the licence, but Wong does not foresee any hiccups.

"The main aim is to get it extended for this year - there are MSL games as well as SEA Games (football matches) held at Jalan Besar, so the priority is to get (the licence) extended for this year," said Wong.

"At the moment there are no S.League or MSL games - the first two league games for the LionsXII are away games, so there is time (for any works required to get the licence approved for the KGS)."

shamiro@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Jan 22, 2015.
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