S. League: No magic forumla for Ng's success

S. League: No magic forumla for Ng's success

In the last year alone, Hougang United made a profit in excess of $2 million.

Bill Ng's Cheetahs are well in the black, a situation virtually unheard of in an S.League that has struggled to rake in the sponsorship dollar or convince fans to flock to stadiums.

All of Hougang's profits were raked in from their clubhouse operations, of which the main feature is the jackpot machines (right).

That is precisely why fans of Woodlands Wellington, who merged with Hougang ahead of the 2015 season, have raised questions over the concentration of three separate licences to run jackpot rooms - Hougang, Tiong Bahru FC, and now Woodlands - under the stewardship of Hougang chairman Ng.

Governed by the private lotteries act, such licences come under the purview of the Police Licensing Unit that requires applicants to fulfil strict criteria.

Tiong Bahru are a former S.League club that changed their name to Tanjong Pagar United in 1998.

They now participate in the amateur National Football League Division 1.

After meetings in which he opened official documents and books for both Hougang and Tiong Bahru to The New Paper, Ng asserts that his business with both clubs is above board.

"I've no qualms about opening up my books. This is Singapore, where there are systems and processes in place, not like some third-world country," Ng said in a meeting with The New Paper where he showed Tiong Bahru's audited accounts.

"Why would anyone think that I'm so powerful as to be able to take a single dollar for myself?

"In fact, over the last few years, Tiong Bahru have donated some $700,000 to the Football Association of Singapore's (FAS) football development fund."

When Ng took over the club in 2005, Tiong Bahru were $700,000 in the red and, after fine-tuning processes there, the clubhouse, in its 2014 audited accounts, registered $1.1 million in retained earnings.

Hougang's clubhouse is understood to be the most profitable in the S.League.

The Cheetahs are self-sufficient, which is almost unimaginable in a league where most clubs are dependent on FAS subsidies.

Depending on their ability to hit pre-set targets, each S.League club can receive up to $1 million in subsidies from the FAS each year, a sum that forms a large part of the annual operating cost.

There is no magic formula to a successful operation, although Ng has broken it down to what is almost a science of clubhouse management.

Ng's work with Tiong Bahru and Hougang is no secret to the football fraternity in Singapore.

In 2013, he chaired a workshop for all S.League clubs, detailing the systems and processes - right down to opening hours on public holidays and food and beverage privileges for members - he has put in place at the two facilities under his watch.

"The standard operating procedures that we've put in place show that every single club can do more than just survive," said Ng.

"And we are more than willing to share what we've done with everyone."

He has had enough of the whispers surrounding his involvement with Tiong Bahru.

"There's too much negativity surrounding this, both for the FAS and for Bill Ng. By the end of the year, we will return (the Tiong Bahru clubhouse) to the FAS but, depending on the direction of the FAS, it could come under the single management of Hougang," said Ng.

While administrative issues - mostly surrounding the Woodlands merger - is at the top of Ng's agenda presently, he does have a plan for Hougang's football activities, although they are unlikely to include bringing in big-name players for a title challenge.

"Why spend so much money when there's no relegation in the league?" said Ng.

"I've got a long-term plan for the club, maybe obtaining a lease for a stadium, around which we can plan for revenue streams that can ensure that the club can remain self-sufficient in the future."


This article was first published on April 13, 2015.
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