In a report by Yahoo Singapore on Thursday, the world football governing body, FIFA, is scrutinising the Singapore Government’s direct involvement with the affairs of the Football Association of Singapore (FAS).
According to Yahoo, “a FIFA spokesperson said the organisation wants to end third-party influence in the FAS, even if that third party is a government ministry.”
Yahoo said, “FIFA was responding to a Yahoo query regarding the its views on Singapore’s Minister for Culture, Community and Youth (formerly Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports) appointing the FAS president and other members of the FAS Council, which governs Singapore’s biggest sport.”
Currently, both the president and vice-president of the FAS are linked to the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP).
The president is PAP Member of Parliament (MP) Zainudin Nordin, who is also the MP for the Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC; and one of its four vice presidents is Edwin Tong, MP for Moulmein-Kallang GRC. (See here.)
Mr Tong is expected to succeed Mr Zainudin as president later this year.
Its current two advisers are former minister, Mah Bow Tan, and former Senior Minister of State, Ho Peng Kee.
Both are also former FAS presidents.
In the April 2015 edition of FIFA Statutes, third-party influence is prohibited.
In its report, Yahoo said:
Article 17.1 states “Each Member shall manage its affairs independently and with no influence from third parties”. A Member refers to a national football association.
FIFA told Yahoo that “Office holders of FIFA Members shall be either elected or appointed within their Association. FIFA Members’ statutes shall provide for a procedure that guarantees the complete independence of the election or appointment from third parties, including Ministries.”
However, the Singapore FAS constitution stipulates that: “All Council Members shall be appointed by the Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports [MCCY] in his discretion and shall, unless otherwise decided by the Minister, hold office for a period of two years”.
The Minister of MCCY is Lawrence Wong.
The FAS rules also say: “The appointments of the FAS Council members shall be confirmed by an absolute majority of Members present at the AGM, that is more than 50% of those present and are eligible to vote at the AGM”.
This means that members can dispute the Minister’s decisions or choices of appointments, and the Minister would have to acquiesce and rethink them.
Yahoo, however, says there is no evidence that such a thing has ever occurred in the past.
Nonetheless, Yahoo reports that FIFA insists that “Any FIFA Member whose office holders are not elected or appointed within their Association, even on an interim basis, shall not be recognised by FIFA”.
Yahoo reports that FIFA is aware of the situation in Singapore and that “it is working to ensure that the FIFA statutes are respected in this regard.”
In 2011, FIFA’s Director of Member Associations and Development, Thierry Regenass, explained what government interference meant and entailed.
Speaking to FIFA.com, he said that generally, “political interference is when a government tries to take direct control.”
Mr Regenass explained one of the ways a government could try to intervene with an association:
“The most common case of political interference is when a government perceives that the Executive Committee of the national association is not performing well enough and decides to take action. Often, because the national team is losing too many games, they decide that changes must be made and want to put someone else in charge.”
As for measures FIFA can take in cases of government interference, Mr Regenass admitted that there was little the governing body could do.
“In terms of concrete measures, we do not have many alternatives other than the threat of suspension, and the suspension itself,” he said.
FIFA would, as a first step, try and encourage the association to get in contact with the government or the party involved in the case, and discuss the issue, he added.
In 2010, FIFA banned Nigeria from all international competitions because of government interference in the sport. (See here.)
In May, it was reported that FIFA had suspended the Indonesian Football Association for its government’s meddling in the country’s domestic league.
As for Singapore, FIFA could also do the same which would mean that all national football activities will come to a standstill, Yahoo says.