No go for Merlion Cup

It was meant to kick-start the biggest commercial deal in Singapore football but the Merlion Cup, originally slated to be played at the National Stadium next month, has been rescheduled to an unspecified date.

The decision to put the quadrangular on hold was confirmed yesterday by both the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) and international sports media rights company MP & Silva.

A spokesman for MP & Silva said yesterday: "Due to circumstances beyond our control and in the interest of ensuring a premium high-quality competition for fans and participating teams, FAS and MP & Silva have chosen to reschedule the event for a future date.

"The decision to not hold the event is regrettable, especially since we had committed considerable time and resources to bring about the successful staging of the Merlion Cup.

"We are confident that the event will make a comeback, and play a major part in rallying the football community to bring the Kallang Roar back to the National Stadium."

The J-League's Yokohama Marinos, Chinese Super League's Shanghai Shenhua and the Myanmar national team were the teams said to be invited for the quadrangular.

Both MP & Silva and the FAS are now believed to be working on a friendly for Lions with an European side but a date for the match has yet to be firmed up. The national team's next game is a World Cup qualifier against Afghanistan to be played in Iran on March 29.

When MP & Silva's $25-million deal with the FAS was announced in February, the company was expected to bring more than 20 events over six years to the Sports Hub. It also allowed the company to manage the global media rights to the Singapore national and age-group teams and its sponsorship opportunities.

But cost issues saw MP & Silva pull out of negotiations with the Sports Hub over the staging of the Merlion Cup.

The Straits Times understands that when MP & Silva pitched the deal with the FAS, it conceptualised events to fill the calendars of the Lions and the various national age-group teams with matches for the next four years.

Negotiations with the Sports Hub to host the Merlion Cup at the 55,000-capacity National Stadium lasted almost a year before it was decided to be rescheduled.

A Plan B to play the tournament at the 6,000-capacity Jalan Besar Stadium was mooted but both Yokohama and Shanghai were not keen to play on the artificial turf.

The Merlion Cup setback has also cast a shadow over the FAS' record commercial deal as the LionsXII broadcast rights for 2016 was set to be handed over to MP & Silva. But with the team disbanded following the shock exit from Malaysian football last month, it could lead to the loss of potential revenue.

However, both MP & Silva and the FAS declined to share further information on how the $25 million deal is structured - whether it is an outright one-time payment by the company to FAS or is it based on events and television rights sold over six years, of which the association gets a cut per deal.

This article was first published on December 25, 2015.
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