The 2015 Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League season will start this weekend, but defending champions Warriors FC are set to kick off their title defence under a shroud of uncertainty.
Hougang United have filed an official complaint against Warriors head coach Alex Weaver for an alleged unauthorised approach for their goalkeeper Fadhil Salim.
If found guilty, the Englishman could face a ban of up to a year.
To compound matters for the nine-time league winners, their Prime League head coach, Argentine Nazareno Velez, has been prevented from assuming the role by the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) because it does not deem Velez's coaching credentials to be equivalent to the Asian Football Confederation 'A' Certificate, which is a requirement for the position.
"We have a situation on our hands, but I won't term it as a crisis as yet," Warriors' chairman Lam Shiu Tong told The New Paper before the FAS disciplinary committee sat to hear the Weaver case yesterday.
The committee has adjourned the hearing to March 3 due to the fact that Hougang's key witness - the player in question, Fadhil - did not turn up at FAS' Jalan Besar headquarters for the hearing.
"We don't condone the illegal poaching of players by anyone in the club, but we are giving Alex support as a club. We will not let him go through this alone," said Lam.
"First, I'd like to see a fair investigation with all parties involved and a fair hearing. And, if Alex is implicated, we will see if we need to appeal."
In December 1996, Dilwant Singh, then manager of Landmark Marine Castle - the first form of the club that are Hougang United today - was barred from holding any office in any S.League club for one year, after being found guilty of negotiating and signing an agreement with Home United forward Egmar Goncalves without giving prior notice.
Goncalves was fined $1,500.
Marine Castle were due to join the S.League for the 1997 season, but pulled out of the league soon after the Dilwant verdict.
Dilwant continued to be involved with Marine Castle in the National Football League during his ban.
While Lam mulls over the possibility of Weaver facing a similar ban, he will start the ball rolling on the matter of his other coach, Velez, who had also faced issues with his credentials as a coach with Geylang International last year.
In response to TNP's queries, an FAS spokesman said: "The S.League would like to reiterate that it does recognise Velez's credentials, but they are not deemed to be the equivalent of an AFC 'A' Certificate."
AFC competition regulations state that an "Assistant Coach" should hold a minimum AFC 'B' Certificate, whereas an S.League or Prime League Head Coach requires at least an AFC 'A' Certificate.
"Warriors FC are free to appoint Velez to their club's coaching/technical set-up, as long as it is not in the capacity of S.League or Prime League Head Coach," added the spokesman.
Lam is poised to open discussions with the FAS on the matter.
"For a start, we will ask for the rationale behind FAS' decision, and we'll see if there are grounds for an appeal," he said.
"But Kevin Wee is still in the club and, personnel-wise, we have a team of coaches who can do a job."
Wee led Balestier Khalsa to back-to-back Prime League titles in 2012 and 2013 and also the FA Cup in 2012 before joining the Warriors last year.
"Velez will be disappointed, he couldn't resolve this after an entire year (in the S.League)," said Lam of the Argentinian, who was prevented from being named Geylang's Prime League head coach last year due to similar issues.
"To be frank, the contract (with Velez) hasn't been signed yet, it is pending the clearance of these technicalities - we have gone in with our eyes wide open, and have put caveats in place.
"I still don't think this (situation) has hit crisis level yet."
This article was first published on February 27, 2015.
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