Football: FAS will ensure LionsXII players earn same salaries next year

PHOTO: The New Paper

The Football Association of Singapore (FAS) has moved swiftly to calm the nerves of the LionsXII players, who were left reeling after the shock announcement they will no longer play in Malaysia's club competitions from 2016.

FAS president Zainudin Nordin and general secretary Winston Lee met with the team before yesterday's evening training session, and in a statement issued later, the national sports association said they had assured the players that "they will secure a playing contract at the same current salary for the 2016 season".

The FAS management assured the players that they are consulting key partners on the various possibilities relating to who they will play for next season.

The New Paper understands that a decision will be made by the end of next week and the most likely outcome is that the LionsXII will be kept together to play in the Great Eastern Yeo's S.League next season, as opposed to splitting the players up into the six senior local S.League teams.

Players who are offered contracts with clubs in the Malaysian Super League or in other countries will be free to negotiate their own deals.

Over the years, the LionsXII squad have formed the bulk of the national team and the idea is to ensure continuity and understanding among as many of the players as possible.

This will allow them to prepare for next year's Suzuki Cup - co-hosted in Myanmar and Philippines at the end of next year - and ensure a smooth transition when the side form the core of the Singapore franchise that will play in the ASEAN Super League, which is slated to kick off in 2017.

Said LionsXII midfielder Zulfahmi Arifin: "We are thankful to the FAS management for their concern and in taking swift action to support us.

"The certainty that every player in LionsXII is assured of a playing contract for next year means a lot to us, and the guarantee that we will receive the same salary is definitely a big bonus."

Winger Gabriel Quak added: "FAS responded quickly to assure us of our future, and we are very grateful for this gesture.

"We appreciate the guarantee of contracts for 2016. It was a different experience for us to play in a foreign league for the past four years, but we will now look ahead to next season in returning to a very competitive S.League with this assurance given to us by FAS."

BETTER DEALS

While the LionsXII players are relieved, some who had performed well in a season when they won the Malaysian FA Cup were already negotiating for a better contract before the Football Association of Malaysia's stunning announcement on Tuesday.

S.League clubs have already started to approach some of the LionsXII players.

The LionsXII will play in the second leg of the Malaysia Cup quarter-finals tomorrow night at Jalan Besar Stadium, and failure to overturn a 4-1 deficit will mean the end of their participation in Malaysian football.

But LionsXII coach Fandi Ahmad feels that the FAS reassurance has given the team a boost and possibly help them pull off a sensational result against the defending champions.

"We heard about the news around midnight on Tuesday and naturally, our players were down. However, the management was quick to assure the team and spoke to us even before we returned to Singapore the next day," said Fandi.

"My officials and players appreciate the professionalism and sincerity of the management. Their prompt action in assuring us all has given us full confidence to do well on Saturday.

"Unlike what some have said, the LionsXII have been a positive project for our players - many of whom lack regional and international exposure.

"We all knew that the memorandum of understanding was valid for four years, and there will come a time when we have to move on.

"Now is the time, and while we were disappointed by the approach FAM took in announcing this decision, it has been a good journey and we will now continue to develop further."

davidlee@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on November 27, 2015.
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