S-League chief: MSL not killing domestic game

SINGAPORE - One regularly attracts over 7,000 screaming fans to the Jalan Besar Stadium; the other struggles to draw crowds of 2,000.

But suggest to S-League chief executive officer Lim Chin that the Malaysian Super League and its newly-crowned champions, the LionsXII, are killing the S-League and the former army colonel begs to differ.

In fact, Singapore's professional football league is doing well and can still get better.

"We've had a good first half of the season, both on and off the pitch," Lim said on Monday, at the launch of the league's Win-A-Car contest where one fan will drive off in a Hyundai Elantra 1.6, worth over $110,000 but excluding COE, at the season's end.

"But we are not resting on our laurels; we are going to try harder for the remainder of the year." All paid ticket holders qualify to take part in the draw, with the winner to be picked at the Nov 8 RHB Singapore Cup final.

This is the second time this year that Komoco Motors is offering a car to help generate interest in the local game.

But Lim recognises that such events merely help encourage fans to come to matches. What ultimately matters is the action on the field.

He believes with the introduction of marquee players such as Tanjong Pagar's Monzef Zerka and Home United's Lee Kwan Woo raising both the level and interest in the Great Eastern-Yeo's S-League, the 18-year-old domestic league still has a future.

He cites improved attendances as proof - the league has noticed a 45 per cent rise in average attendance to date this term, from last year's all-time low of 932.

"We are very heartened to see players going around hawker centres and MRT stations to hand out flyers," he said of the various clubs' efforts to promote the league in the heartland.

And, rather than seeing the LionsXII's success in the MSL as sounding the death knell for the S-League, he believes that the two share a "symbiotic relationship" that can only be good for Singapore football.

This, with the cream of the S-League crop being drafted into the LionsXII ranks and, after some time, returning with the experience of playing competitively across the Causeway.

"This formula is working well," Lim stressed. "It may be a bit early to have that direct link now but, in time to come, we will see the LionsXII get stronger as the S-League gets stronger.

The LionsXII will have a direct link to the S-League and both will contribute directly to the success of the national team."

It is Lim's hope, then, that the S-League and MSL are seen as being complementary to each other.

"It's not comparing apples with apples," he said of the view that both are competing for local football fans' attention.

"We recognise that the country is backing the LionsXII because of a rivalry that goes back decades.

"For the S-League, we must be realistic and comfortable with a certain level of attendance."

Even so, he believes that more can be done to further boost the domestic scene - starting with convincing more corporations to come on board and show a level of support similar to Komoco's.

"We are hoping that more Singapore-based companies will take a cue from what Komoco and our other title sponsors - Great Eastern, Yeo's, RHB and StarHub - have done," Lim said.

"Football is the No. 1 sport in Singapore; we have live telecasts on TV every week; and, we are in the media almost every day.

"There is definitely value in being associated with the S-League and Singapore football."