Friday 27 November 2015

Singapore out of Malaysia Super League from 2016

Malaysia's football body decides not to extend partnership, citing travel costs
By Sanjay Nair, The Straits Times, 26 Nov 2015

For the second time in two decades, Singapore's top players have found themselves booted out of Malaysian football, again with hardly any warning.

In 1994, it was sparked by a spat over gate receipts and match- fixing. The Lions were shown the door soon after winning the Malaysian league and Cup double that year.

This time, travel costs have been cited as the reason, with Football Association of Malaysia deputy president Afandi Hamzah telling the Malay Mail newspaper that "it was not cheap travelling to and from Singapore and many teams found it difficult".

This news has come as a shock to the LionsXII, who won the Malaysian FA Cup in May and the Malaysia Super League (MSL) in 2013, one year after joining the fray.

Now, players from the team have been left scrambling for fresh contracts and their livelihoods, with the squad finding out about the FAM's decision to end the LionsXII's four-year participation via social media and frantic calls from family and friends.

They were barred from speaking to the media by the Football Association of Singapore (FAS), which said it was informed by FAM of the move only yesterday evening.

"Our immediate priority is to assist the LionsXII players and backroom staff and we will be meeting them over the next few days," the FAS said in a statement last night.

LionsXII - The Journey
Thank you - our 12th Man. This is for all the fans that have been with us along the way, ever since the beginning of the LionsXII in 2012. Through every drop of sweat, every tear and every goal.This is your LionsXII.
Posted by LionsXII on Saturday, November 28, 2015

As recently as last week, senior football officials from both sides held talks to extend the partnership, which was signed in 2011 and due to end this year. It saw the LionsXII play in Malaysia and Malaysia's own developmental squad Harimau Muda feature in Singapore's S-League.

Sources said the FAS had believed a new deal would be signed.

"This is a wake-up call for FAS. It's clear we shouldn't be relying on our neighbours any more to improve our game," said one senior LionsXII player, who declined to be named.

National captain Hariss Harun, who played for the LionsXII from 2012 to 2013 before moving to Johor Darul Takzim, said: "FAS should have been upfront with the players and kept them updated along the way as their livelihoods are at stake.

"The timing of the announcement is bad too. You have to wonder how the boys are feeling now ahead of Saturday's second leg against Pahang."

The LionsXII lost the first leg of their Malaysia Cup quarter-final 4-1 to Pahang on Tuesday night.

Sources said FAS offered to foot the Malaysian teams' travel bill if their own expenses were covered by their opponents in away matches - even though it amounted to a net cost of around $100,000 a year to the Singapore association.

It is believed FAM also wanted to take over the LionsXII's TV rights, something its Singapore counterpart was unwilling to part with.

The first murmurings of discontent over the LionsXII's participation were heard in 2013, when the V. Sundramoorthy-led outfit won the top-tier MSL.

When they captured the Malaysian FA Cup earlier this year, opponents accused the Singaporeans of having an advantage by fielding a near-national team, despite not being allowed to register foreign players like their MSL rivals.

LionsXII Head Coach Fandi Ahmad: "The FAS management was quick to assure the team and spoke to us even before we...
Posted by Football Association of Singapore on Thursday, November 26, 2015

LionsXII on same salary next year
FAS assures players rice bowls are intact but yet to decide how they will play in S-League
By Wang Meng Meng, The Straits Times, 26 Nov 2015

Within 24 hours of receiving official confirmation from the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) that the LionsXII will not participate in competitions across the Causeway next year, the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) took steps to assure the players in limbo that their rice bowls for next year are intact.

FAS president Zainudin Nordin and general secretary Winston Lee met Fandi Ahmad's men before training commenced at Institute of Technical Education (ITE) College Central at 6.30pm yesterday and briefed the team for 90 minutes.

In a statement issued after the meeting, the FAS said the management assured the players that they will secure a playing contract at the same salary for the 2016 season.

"The players were informed that the FAS is consulting its key partners on the various possibilities relating to their playing club in the S-League next season."

The Straits Times understands that if a player has to take a pay cut to sign for a club in the S-League, the FAS will top up the difference for a year.

The gesture is extended to every player in the squad, including the reserves and those whose contracts are expiring next month.

In the coming days, senior FAS officials will also be meeting the top brass from the S-League clubs to find out if the latter are keen to sign the LionsXII players before the annual retain/release list is published next Friday.

However, it is believed that the FAS wishes to keep the LionsXII together as a team to compete in the S-League.

Although it could result in lop-sided results as most of Fandi's men are internationals, the association hopes to keep the team together for the sake of continuity ahead of the Asean Super League (ASL) kick-off, which is set for March 2017.

A regional club competition sanctioned by the Asean Football Federation, little is known about the format and composition of the ASL.

However, FAS officials are optimistic that the elite teams from across South-east Asia will want to take part.

The competition is expected to receive the green light from world governing body Fifa by next March.

On the FAS' move to assure players of their contracts next year, Fandi said: "Their (FAS officials) prompt action in assuring us all has given us full confidence to do well on Saturday.

"We all knew that the MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) was valid for four years, and there will come a time when we have to move on. While we were disappointed by the approach FAM took in announcing this decision, it has been a good journey and we will now continue to develop further."

The FAS and FAM signed an MOU in 2011 that allowed both countries to send their developmental teams across the Causeway to compete in league and Cup competitions.

The four-year agreement kicked off in 2012 with the LionsXII playing in the Malaysia Super League and Malaysia's Harimau Muda joining the S-League.

But on Tuesday night, after Fandi's team suffered a 1-4 loss at Pahang in the first leg of the Malaysia Cup quarter-finals, the FAM announced on its website that it is not renewing the MOU.

It caused consternation among the players ahead of the return leg at Jalan Besar Stadium tomorrow.

Midfielder Zulfahmi Arifin said: "The certainty that every player in LionsXII is assured of a playing contract for next year means a lot to us, and the guarantee that we will receive the same salary is definitely a big bonus."

“No amount of words can sufficiently express our gratitude to our fans and we hope that you will continue to support...
Posted by Football Association of Singapore on Saturday, November 28, 2015

Match Highlights | LionsXII 2-0 Pahang (4-3 on agg)
Posted by LionsXII on Sunday, November 29, 2015

Thank you - our 12th Man. This is for all the fans that have been with us along the way, ever since the beginning of the...
Posted by LionsXII on Saturday, November 28, 2015

LionsXII head coach Fandi Ahmad expressed his gratitude for being allowed to be part of a “special team” after the LionsXII’s involvement in Malaysian competitions came to an end on Saturday evening.
Posted by LionsXII on Saturday, November 28, 2015

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