LionXII: Only four, but so much more 

LionXII: Only four, but so much more 
Shahdan Sulaiman is the latest LionsXII player to sign for Tampines Rovers, although he will be taking a pay-cut.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

In just 15 days since the Dec 4 announcement signalling the break up of the LionsXII, 24 of Fandi Ahmad's extended 28-man squad have found new clubs.

That leaves just four of the LionsXII highest earners - goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud, midfielders Faris Ramli and Isa Halim, and defender Safuwan Baharudin - undecided on their future.

But the LionsXII situation is far from being resolved.

From the machinations of the proposed draft system, to the issue of fair subsidies to clubs, there appears more work ahead before Singapore football can put the LionsXII to rest, and look ahead to the new S.League season.

The Football Association of Singapore (FAS) mooted a draft system to help place still-unsecured players into clubs - with a promise to match their current salaries - and set yesterday as the date to kickstart the proposed draft system.

But, in response to queries, the FAS said that it will extend the period of open market negotiations "by another week - or longer if necessary - to allow these players to conclude negotiations and secure a contract".

It did not answer questions pertaining to just how the draft system would work.

Shahdan Sulaiman was the latest player to secure a contract last night, becoming the eighth LionsXII player to join Tampines Rovers. He will lose some $24,000 annually in wages, after deciding to take a pay-cut to play for a club who will represent Singapore in Asian Football Confederation competitions next year.

LionsXII players are paid more than the average S.League player.

Tampines chairman Krishna Ramachandra is hoping that the FAS will relook its plan to help clubs defray the added cost of taking LionsXII players on board.

The New Paper had earlier reported that the FAS will give the six local S.League clubs $130,000 each, on top of subsidies that can reach up to $800,000 if they meet all the key performance indicators.

"We are playing our part to take on these players to further the national cause and I hope we could have another chat with the FAS about the subsidies," Krishna told TNP.

He revealed that to cover the wages of the LionsXII players, Tampines need to tap into their foreign player budget, and will sign only foreigners who are "outstanding".

"This is a strategy we've decided to adopt, and it'll help balance our books a bit better, but we'll still need help from the FAS subsidies," added Krishna.

While Tampines have offered a bigger pay package to some LionsXII players, Krishna revealed that contract negotiations have not been easy.

"For the most part, it has been hard to match what FAS has been paying, and we've tried our best. We've given priority to bring back former Tampines players, and others have approached us because our involvement in AFC competitions would help their development," said the lawyer.

He explained that the FAS subsidies could be activated only if a club invested in a minimum of three LionsXII players.

Among the local S.League clubs, only Tampines, Hougang United (five) and Geylang International (four) have met the quota for the subsidies to kick in.

The Courts Young Lions, the FAS' developmental side in the S.League, have moved for three.

Of the four players who have yet to secure contracts, three - Izwan, Safuwan and Faris - are eyeing moves abroad.

"It is a fair system that's meant to equalise the salary gulf, designed not to be exploited, but to be helpful," said Krishna.

This article was first published on Dec 19, 2015.
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