SINGAPORE: Defending champions Brunei DPMM will sit out the remainder of this year's Singapore Premier League (SPL) season, the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) announced on Monday (Oct 26).
"We have been informed recently by DPMM FC that they are unable to participate in their upcoming fixtures, because there are currently no provisions in Brunei that allow them to travel to Singapore," said the FAS in a press release.
"There is also currently no confirmation as to when travel can resume at all, due to the evolving COVID-19 situation worldwide."
The FAS noted that along with the club, it had made "significant efforts" to explore mutually satisfactory arrangements for the team's participation in the league.
"The current situation is unfortunate, but FAS appreciates that DPMM FC has done everything possible to resume its place in the SPL but has to abide by Brunei’s national policies set out to contain the virus," said the statement.
The SPL had resumed on Oct 17 after an almost seven-month absence due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Games are currently played behind closed doors and fans are only able to watch matches on livestreams and selected broadcast channels, said the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth earlier this month.
"As it is important for the FAS to ensure that the 2020 SPL season can continue so that the League concludes in time in order for Singapore's representatives for 2021’s Asian Football Confederation (AFC) club competitions to be ascertained, the FAS will proceed with the rest of the 2020 SPL season without the defending champions," added the statement on Monday.
FAS president Lim Kia Tong noted that despite this, DPMM remains an "integral" part of the league.
DPMM have won the league twice, finishing as runners-up on two occasions.
“It is extremely unfortunate that Brunei DPMM FC will not be able to join us for the resumption of the 2020 SPL campaign as I am certain SPL supporters and the other participating clubs are looking forward to see the reigning champions defend their title," Mr Lim said.
"However, we recognise that these are extraordinary circumstances, and the current situation leaves us with extremely limited options. Brunei DPMM FC has been a valued participant of the SPL for a better part of the decade and remains an integral part of our League. We look forward to welcoming them back next season.”
READ: Brunei DPMM will not play in Community Shield due to its 'travel restrictions' over COVID-19: FAS
DPMM general manager Ali Haji Momin said that despite the club's "best efforts", the travel restrictions have made it not possible for the team to participate in the league.
"We were looking forward to defending our title this season," he said, adding that his team is hoping to return for the "2021 season in full force".
The sitting out of DPMM would mean the sole game the club won against Tampines Rovers on Mar 6 will be voided, with 37 matches left to be completed in the season by the end of this year, said FAS.