Uniquely Singapore events the key goal for Sports Hub

Singapore national netball player Cheryl Ann Lee (extreme right) and the national footballers (from left) Safuwan Baharudin, Isa Halim, and Gabriel Quak line up for photo opportunities in front of the Singapore Sports Hub that is currently undergoing construction

The likes of Serie A champions Juventus and Fifa World Cup holders Spain might be headed for Singapore's shores soon.

The Straits Times understands that match promoters and the Football Association of Singapore are in advanced stages of a deal that would see Spain and Italian giants Juventus play a match at the new National Stadium this year.

Football is seen as one of the few sports that can fill the 55,000-seat National Stadium on a regular basis. Yet, even as one of the Sports Hub's key goals will be to attract big-name football teams for one-off matches, the long-term strategy for the $1.33 billion facility is to develop events that are anchored in Singapore.

For example, the Women's Tennis Association Championships will call Singapore home for the next five years. Likewise, the Singapore Swim Stars event is set for a minimum five-year deal.

Such longer-term contracts are being sought in the hope that these events, which will also see top athletes conducting clinics for young people here, will leave an impact on the local sporting landscape.

"Our event strategy is aimed at ensuring that the event portfolio contributes to the sporting ecosystem by having a social, sporting and industry impact," said Singapore Sports Council (SSC) chief executive Lim Teck Yin.

"We are looking at events that will inspire people to participate in and bond through sports, and celebrate our identity, be it at the community, team or national level."

Economically, there are also benefits of having a uniquely Singapore event. The annual Singapore Grand Prix, the world's only Formula One night race, has enjoyed an average crowd of more than 250,000 people since its inaugural race in 2008.

Each race weekend attracted about $150 million in extra tourism receipts from the first five editions and about 40,000 visitors from abroad over the race weekend. Singapore Rugby Union (SRU) president Low Teo Ping is well aware of the need to create an event that Singapore can call its own.

On that note, the SRU has, in the pipeline, an annual event which will feature global teams at the National Stadium for the next decade. It is expected to be finalised over the next few weeks.

Said Mr Low, who is also vice-president of the Singapore National Olympic Council: "You've got to have your own property if you want to develop sports here." There is also hope that the ASEAN Super League, a Singapore brainchild featuring top teams from the region, will help fill the National Stadium on a regular basis when it makes its debut next year.

Football Association of Singapore president Zainudin Nordin said: "It's not just about a one-off (occurrence) of having 55,000 people fill the stadium. It's about bringing people back regularly."

Sports Hub chief executive Philippe Collin Delavaud said: "Having an exhibition (event), and a major sports event that happens once every 10 years is OK, but what's important is for Singaporeans to move from television screens and lounges back to the National Stadium, OCBC Arena and the OCBC Aquatic Centre, and really be a part of the sports."

maychen@sph.com.sg 

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