Sports Hub: 'Singapore Lions' for ASL… Maybe

The Asean Super League (ASL) is scheduled to kick off in January next year, and the team that will fly the Republic's flag in the regional competition will be charged to capture the imagination of the public.

Speaking to The New Paper on Thursday, Football Association of Singapore (FAS) president Zainudin Nordin said: "We need to ensure that fans come and fill the National Stadium consistently.

"I believe that if we to build a team from scratch - a good team that we can be proud of, participating in a regional league of high stature, we might be able to do that.

"That is the vision, and the working name for the team is Singapore Lions."

Zainudin was speaking on the sidelines of Singapore Sports Hub's announcement of its events line-up for 2014 on Thursday.

The new 55,000-capacity National Stadium at the Sports Hub will be the official home of the Lions.

Singapore's ASL team will also play their home games at the stadium.

The ASL will see each Asean country represented by at least one club, with each side allowed to sign five foreign players.

Estimated to cost around $6 million per club per year, the organisers believe the competition will attract huge fan and sponsor interest in football-mad South-east Asia.

Singapore football chief Zainudin is determined to form a quality team local fans can rally behind.

"We will have a good team... because our LionsXII experience has shown we can build a brand with one team, despite the challenge of being a small city state," he said.

"One team that Singaporean fans can get behind and see as their own."

The LionsXII are an FAS-run Singapore side that have been playing in Malaysia's domestic club competitions since 2012.

They consistently filled the 7,500-capacity Jalan Besar Stadium in their debut season, and these days, they average probably between 5,000 and 6,000 fans.

Zainudin is keen to have one team in the ASL so as not to dilute fan support, especially with the S.League to consider.

But discussions are ongoing over the possibility of having a second Singapore team in the ASL, and more importantly finding a link to the S.League.

Said S.League chief executive Lim Chin: "We have to look at establishing an ecosystem for football here.

FEAR

"We are looking at the structure, participation and composition of the ASL. There are serious discussions on these matters, but they are still being developed."

There is a fear within the local football fraternity that the ASL will hit the S.League hard, in terms of fan interest and financial backing from sponsors.

"From the S.League perspective, it is important to have a direct connection with the ASL so we can have a win-win situation," said Lim.

"That is critical."

Zainudin revealed that experiments are being done to establish a link between the LionsXII and the S.League.

They include placing LionsXII logos at S.League matches, with Fandi Ahmad's team watching from the stands.

While the efficacy of these efforts are still to be determined, there is one thing Zainudin can say for certain - the ASL side will take on their regional rivals at the National Stadium.

He said: "If the ASL team don't play at the National Stadium, people will scream at me."

WORK TO DO IN TRACK AND FIELD

The Singapore sports fraternity is in for a wild ride when the Sports Hub opens its doors in April.

Tennis fans will welcome the best women players on the planet at the WTA Championships in October, rugby enthusiasts will enjoy the

World Club 10s, swimming will attract world-record holders at the Singapore Swim Stars event, and football is poised to host world and European champions Spain.

Track and field, though, will have to work its way up from school-level competitions, before it can hope to stage a world-class event at the new National Stadium at Kallang.

"There needs to be a build-up of capabilities and a build-up of appreciation of track and field as a sport before we spend the money to bid for more prestigious events," said Singapore Sports Council chief executive Lim Teck Yin.

"The sport cannot just leap into a world-class event and hope that it is appealing to everybody."

Lim was speaking on the sidelines of Singapore Sports Hub's announcement of its events line-up for 2014 on Thursday.

While he acknowledged recent results in athletics have been encouraging, Lim added: "It is recognised that (athletics) as a spectator sport takes time to develop. What we hope to do is to start to build on the National Schools' track and field... that used to attract 20,000 to 30,000 (fans).

"We are working... to see how we can begin to stage (athletics) events at the National Stadium, so we can eventually have the capability to first host the South-east Asia Games (in 2015), then the Asian Masters... and then from there to conceive more ambitious world-class events."

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