Jaguars to sit out next S-League season, Rams to merge with Hougang

Jaguars to sit out next S-League season, Rams to merge with Hougang
Woodlands Wellington footballers leaving Woodlands Stadium on 3 November 2014.

The S-League has shrunk from 12 to 10 teams for the 2015 season, barely days after this year's campaign came to an end.

Woodlands Wellington - one of the eight founding members of the league in 1996 - will merge with Hougang United and compete as one team next season.

Meanwhile, Tanjong Pagar United, finalists in this year's League Cup and last year's Singapore Cup, announced that they will sit out the next campaign.

A post on the Jaguars' official Facebook page last night read: "It is confirmed that (Tanjong Pagar) will be sitting out of the 2015 S-League season. We thank all our supporters for your support from 2011 to 2014."

This is the second time the Jaguars - another S-League founding member - have sat out of the professional league. They withdrew from the S-League after the 2004 season, citing financial problems, before returning in 2011.

Once again, they are sitting out due to money. Said chairman Edward Liu: "We were unable to find a sponsor for this year after Field Catering, who came in with a $100,000 sponsorship last season, pulled out before this season.

"With our current resources, we were unable to do our utmost to challenge for glory. We finished ninth this year, when my target for the team was to better last season's sixth-position placing.

"We don't want to just make up the numbers. We want to fight for glory (but) we'll be rather challenged financially... if we take part in next year's campaign."

Liu said the plan was to sit out a year as he tries to locate a sponsor but added: "Anything can happen, depending on (finding) a sponsor."

Meanwhile, news of the Woodlands-Hougang merger was delivered in an hour-long meeting at the Woodlands Stadium yesterday, attended by Woodlands players, officials and S-League chief executive Lim Chin.

"Woodlands will be merging with Hougang United for the new season," said Lim. He declined to give further details.

Both Woodlands and Hougang officials declined comment when contacted by The Straits Times.

Woodlands personnel have no idea what the future holds, with the club giving no indication who will be released or retained.

Midfielder Goh Swee Swee may give up the sport for good if he does not find a new club.

"You're shrinking a pool from over 40 jobs to just over 20, so what are those who are left out going to do?" said the 28-year-old.

"I've got my family to consider so if I can't find a club, I'll have to find a job outside of football. Nobody likes a situation like this but we got to face this reality now."

The Rams finished at the bottom of the table from 2010 to 2012, and were second-from-bottom in the recent season, while Hougang have also struggled through several incarnations. Former Woodlands manager R. Vengadasalam likened the merger to "an attempt to mix oil and water".

He said: "Geographically, this won't work as the two clubs are so far apart. Will they train at Woodlands and play at Hougang, or vice versa?

"To me, they're killing off 19 years of history with Woodlands Wellington by merging the two clubs together.

"I may have left Woodlands (in 2004), but I never thought this day would come."

Different names, same old club

Hougang may have had many incarnations, but their fortunes remain largely the same.

1998 - League position: 11th (of 11 teams)
1998 - 12th (12)
2000 - 11th (12)
2001 - 11th (12)

2002 - 8th (12)
2003 - 8th (12)
2004 - Sit-out

2005 - 10th (10)

2006 - 11th (11)
2007 - 11th (12)
2008 -11th (12)
2009 - 10th (11)
2010 - 11th (12)

2011 - 7th (12)
2012 - 8th (13)
2013 - 10th (12)
2014 - 7th (12)

This article was first published on Nov 4, 2014.
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