SINGAPORE: The Football Association of Singapore (FAS) on Tuesday (Dec 29) confirmed it would comply with global governing body FIFA's directive to elect its office-bearers, doing away with a long-standing mechanism of appointment by the country's sports minister.
"As FIFA is of the view that we must have elections, FAS are accepting the direction of FIFA and will move towards a full election process of office bearers," said Mr Lim Kia Tong, vice president of FAS.
Speaking at the association's AGM, Mr Lim added that at least two stipulations by FIFA would be implemented: A four-year term of office, up from two, as well as integrity checks on candidates prior to elections for purposes of transparency and accountability.
Mr Lim said FAS would aim to amend its constitution by March 31 next year, after which they are looking to hold elections in June.
"Various topics will be brainstormed soon as this election is to become a new feature that will change the landscape, the dimensions of the management of football in Singapore after three decades," he said. "We must tread carefully with precision."
'FAS HAS NOT DONE ANYTHING WRONG'
FAS president Zainudin Nordin and vice president Edwin Tong (Photo: Justin Ong)
Earlier, FAS president Zainudin Nordin declared the association had "not done anything wrong".
"We have always been in consultation with FIFA over the last 30 years. They are aware of the uniqueness of our situation, and have always given us special dispensation. It's not an issue," he said.
Added Mr Lim: "FIFA has left this system untouched, however in recent times, there have been queries from certain quarters raised with FIFA that our appointment process goes against the principles of complete independence - although there is no evidence offered of actual cases of such."
Mr Lim revealed that it was in September when FIFA first ruled that FAS was not to hold any election, make any appointments or change office-bearers until its constitution was amended.
He said that in November, officials from FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation came to Singapore to discuss with FAS with a view to amending its constitution and to pave the way for election.
"Our office-bearers have always managed the game with full autonomy, the highest level of professionalism and as volunteers," he insisted. "The game of football in Singapore is virtually free of corruption ... FAS has been commended by FIFA for strong administrative management and corporate governance."
Mr Lim added: "The minister in particular and the Government in general have not in any way interfered in the running of the game all these years."
"For about 30 years the system has been adopted without compromising the quality of management and administration of the game of football."
"TIME WE GO THROUGH THE ELECTION PROCESS"
Still, Mr Lim said various entities agreed on the need for reforms. "In view of a lot of disquiet, and queries raised, I think all stakeholders including MCCY (Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth) Sport Singapore and SNOC (Singapore National Olympic Council) etc. - they think it is time we go through the election process so as to put to rest these perceptions, whether called for or uncalled for. So with the election process in place, we will see new characters come forward to try and manage the most popular game in the world."
Mr Lim noted that FIFA statutes do not make it mandatory for FAs to elect their office-bearers, albeit with the caveat of procedures to guarantee complete independence of election or appointment.
"As an assurance, FAS has always injected the requirement that appointments must be approved by more than 50 per cent of members at the AGM," Mr Lim said. "This means the minister's appointment really serves as a nomination process which must still be endorsed by an electoral mechanism."
He pointed out that besides vice president Edwin Tong, who is Member of Parliament for Marine Parade GRC and Mr Zainudin, a former MP, there were no other "political personalities" in the current council. And Mr Tong and Mr Zainudin "have consistently demonstrated that they operate independently and do so for the good of the sport", said Mr Lim.
"If there had been Government interference, FIFA would have reacted very quickly with the full brunt of the law, such as when they suspended Brunei in 2008, Indonesia recently, and currently, Kuwait," he added.
Mr Zainudin meanwhile, more or less ruled himself out for re-election come June. "More than a year ago, I was ready to step down. Since then, I have not changed my views," he stated. "There needs to be revitalisation of FAS and a succession plan. As of now, my position has not changed. I believe that there needs to be change for the future."