The uproar against Our Tampines Hub, which is owned and managed by government agency People’s Association (PA), for the “overuse” of the pitch at the facility is misguided.
Therein lies the conflict between PA, which is an organisation which is tasked to engage the greater community, and the Football Association of Singapore (FAS), which is trying to run a professional football league.
A QUICK RECAP
On 10 April, it was announced by the FAS that the Singapore Premier League (SPL) match between Geylang International and Balestier Khalsa had to be postponed by a day because of the state of the pitch following a weekend of intensive use by a private football academy which organises the JSSL Professional Academy 7s.
Upon returning to training following the youth tournament on 10 April, Geylang International coach Mohd Noor Ali was quoted in the national daily The Straits Times that the field was “koyak”, which means torn in Malay.
The SPL match between Geylang and Balestier was then postponed by a day, and the match was played at the Jalan Besar Stadium on 12 April instead of 11 April.
In a harshly worded Facebook post, the FAS said that the “upon extensive inspection, SPL officials have found the pitch at OTH to be in a state that is unfit and unsafe for professional competition football.”
The FAS added that it “prioritises the health and safety of all players and officials especially in competitions like the SPL, and in this instance, has determined that the state of the pitch in OTH has unfortunately fallen short of the expected standards.”
Sources also told TMSG that an assessment of the field by a maintenance team found that there were “potholes” around the pitch.
These “potholes” were not visible to the naked eye, as a photo by TMSG taken on 10 April indicated.
What also further irritated football fans was that while there have been complaints about the intensive use of the pitch, there was a frisbee event which was conducted over the weekend of 15 and 16 April.
Comments to the post by TMSG were mixed, with a fair share of netizens understanding that Our Tampines Hub is a community facility, and not a stadium only meant for professional football use.
SO WHO’S TO BLAME?
If Geylang International, or Tampines Rovers, or any other club for that matter, are fussed with the idea that the fields which are being used for their training and matches are shared venues which are owned by the Government and were built for public utility, then they should find the money, acquire land, and build venues on their own.
The investments made by Lion City Sailors at their Mattar Road facility serve as one example, even as they share the Bishan Stadium with Balestier Khalsa for their league matches.
The other alternative is to ensure that bookings at these facilities are made way in advance.
In the case of Our Tampines Hub, perhaps the PA or FAS should make public when were bookings made for both the JSSL Professional Academy 7s and for the SPL matches which then caused the clash of use, and the complaint following the 7s tournament.
The answer is quite obvious.
Space constraints in Singapore will mean that we will never be in a position where all SPL clubs will be able to lease land from the Government and build their own stadia.
It is just not practical and physically possible given the size of the tiny island.
Prohibitive costs would also make it almost impossible for clubs to lease land, build their own stadia and then recoup their investments over 30-years, not given the fact that only a handful are willing to currently pay to watch football matches in Singapore.
Until such time a local match can fill up a venue with 30,000 fans week in and out who are willing to pay $50 per ticket per match, then this idea of having their own venues should be banished.
COLLABORATION BETWEEN PARTIES
The only way for all parties to find a win-win scenario in this conflict would be to plan in advance.
The FAS needs to ask themselves how far ahead do they plan for their league match schedules?
Can this be planned ahead of time to provide venue owners the opportunity to ensure venues are optimised fully?
The fact of the matter is that the taxpayer will not be willing to see another sports venue being funded by the taxpayers, which ends up becoming a white elephant.
Community and public venues like Our Tampines Hub are serving the purpose they were built for.
They should not be faulted for doing their jobs, and for doing it well.
MAIN PHOTO: THESMARTLOCAL/2022
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