The Pennant possibility

The Pennant possibility
Players from various S.League clubs, including Tampines Rovers' Jermaine Pennant (third from left) were present at the unveiling of Mitre as the S.League's official ball at the Jalan Besar Stadium yesterday.
PHOTO: S.League

It started with a conversation about Izwan Mahbud, and eventually led to Jermaine Pennant penning a deal to join Singapore's star goalkeeper at Tampines Rovers.

That move has prompted others, including representatives of former Brazilian international Adriano, to enquire about the S.League.

R Sasikumar, managing director of sports marketing firm Red Card, played an integral role in bringing Pennant to the S.League. 

LUCKY CALL

Speaking to The New Paper yesterday, he revealed that the Pennant deal all started rather fortuitously as he looked to help find an overseas club for Izwan with a phone call to the former Liverpool winger's agent, Sky Andrew.

Even as local football struggles to move to the next level, Sasi believes other clubs can follow Tampines' example, and should.

"It's a chicken-and-egg question, isn't it? Will the sponsors come in first to help bring in star players, or will the star player have to come first so sponsors are keen?" Sasi wondered.

"Players are the main assets in football, they are why there are bums on seats, why fans spend money, and why sponsors come in.

"Which is why I don't understand why some clubs say that they won't spend money on players," said the former Singapore international defender.

The S.League in 2008 attracted an average of 226 paying fans, while the average sales figure for the first 10 games of the 2012 season was 201.

Average attendance was in excess of 1,000 last year, but no ticket sales figures were available.

Sasi believes that Pennant has already shown that he can breathe new life into the S.League, with fans flocking to a pre-season friendly to see the 33-year-old.

Working on the assumption that clubs pay up to $10,000 a month for their foreign players, Sasi asserts that instead of signing three such players, clubs can afford to bring in one big- name player.

"Would you sign three (unknown) players, or one, who can bring 2,000 people to a friendly game? Why not consolidate the resources," said Sasi who revealed that big names could sign for around $300,000 in annual wages.

"There's no reason other clubs cannot follow the Tampines example," insisted Sasi.

SELLING POINT

To compete against rival competitions in Thailand and Malaysia, who can afford bigger pay packages, Sasi says clubs here can sell the most marketable point about the S.League - Singapore.

"Singapore is already known as Monaco of the East, and the S.League is in a great position to capitalise on the lifestyle that the country can offer," he said.

"Most of these players don't need more zeroes in their bank balance.

"Here, they don't need to travel for away games and can spend more time with their families, and the lifestyle they can have is a big draw."

Sasi revealed that in addition to queries from former Inter forward Adriano's representatives, there is also the possibility of the likes of Jerome Thomas (32-year-old Crystal Palace winger) and Ricardo Fuller (36- year-old Oldham Athletic forward) starring in the S.League.

Of course, the players who do come must be able to shine.

"Pennant was Man-of-the-Match for Liverpool in the Champions League final in 2007.

"That may be a while ago, but he's not finished yet. It is of course important that he becomes a success both on and off the pitch, because that will open even more doors," Sasi said.

DRAW

"Let's not forget that Jermaine is friends with some of the best players in the world, who are still following his career.

"We could probably attract more here, but is our system ready?"

"This was like pushing a snowball up a hill, it's hard, and people give up. But with Jermaine here, we've got it up the hill, and ready to roll it down the other side," he added.

"It will gather momentum for sure, hopefully that momentum is directed in a way that is good for Singapore football."

shamiro@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on January 26, 2016.
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