• Thu. Dec 7th, 2023

Bernard Tan is bad for Singapore football. Here’s why.

May 24, 2023 ,

Several members of the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) leadership team, which includes the executive committee and the council, have voiced their unhappiness at the way in which Acting President Bernard Tan is conducting the affairs of the national football body. 


The FAS leadership is made up of the Exco (Acting President and four current Vice-Presidents) and a Council (10 members) not including the General Secretary Yazeen Buhari. 

TMSG will refer to the leadership as a collective team which include both the Exco and Council, to protect the identity of the members who have spoken to us or who have provided us the evidence for this story.

TMSG has spoken to enough sources and was also shown the evidence of what has been transpiring over the last week or so following Singapore’s dismal and disastrous showing at the Cambodia Southeast Asian Games. 


In an interview with CNA on 21 May, Acting President Bernard Tan announced that the Young Lions would be pulled out from all international competitions pending the findings of a review committee led by 75-year-old former national coach Jita Singh and until the team is competitive enough to compete.

TMSG took the position that the announcement was a punishment for the Young Lions, and an unfair one, with the story also being posted by Reddit by a reader.

That announcement by Tan has not gone down too well with many in the football fraternity, including certain members of the FAS leadership.

“That is plain dumb as the players should not be stopped from taking part at ASEAN Football Federation and Asian Football Confederation tournaments,” said one source.

One parent of a current Young Lions players said it was ridiculous that the FAS makes this decision, given that international competitions like the U23 Asian Cup are yardsticks to determine where the team stands.

“Punishing the Young Lions before the review committee releases its findings is unfair to the Young Lions,” said one senior Singaporean coach, with more than 20 years of experience under his belt who spoke to TMSG previously.

Why was Tan so quick to his holster to draw out his weapon? Was he instructed?

And if yes, by whom? 

What if the review committee would conclude that it was the decision to hire Philippe Aw as the Young Lions coach, given his relative inexperience, was the root cause of the failure and that the people who made that decision should pay the price? 

What if the findings also revealed that the people who made the decision to hire Aw did not use the necessary metrics to assess his competence and experience?

In a previous interview, former national midfielder Aidil Sharin Sahak, who was rejected for the role of the Young Lions coach, had informed TMSG that among the conditions placed on the table was that even if he was to be hired for the Young Lions role, it was going to be Aw who would lead the Young Lions side to the SEA Games. 

TMSG decided not to use that bit of information when the story was written on 6 January but it is now imperative that that nugget of information is made public.

Who was involved in the interviews with Aidil and who made the decision to hire Aw for the role?

The FAS review committee should make this public.

A member of the FAS leadership said that there appears to be a lot of unilateral decision making by Tan, without consultation with the rest of the leadership team. 

“He loves to listen to the sound of his own voice, and does not appear to believe in the need for consultation,” said the FAS leadership insider.

“It is like going for a meeting and a radio is turned on without any time for commercials.”


The information about the review committee was relayed to the FAS leadership through a WhatsApp message, in which the FAS Acting President Tan said he was going to announce the review committee to be chaired by Jita Singh, a 75-year-old veteran coach whose last claim to fame was helping Singapore win the Malaysia Cup in 1980 and then leading the Lions to the silver at the 1989 SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur. 

Members of the FAS leadership team revealed that there was no consultation or even an explanation of why Jita, or the rest of the members were selected.

One of the members of the leadership then suggested former national coach Radojko Avramovic as a possible lead, to which Tan responded that he did not have Avramovic’s number. 

Avramovic’s mobile number was subsequently shared with Tan through the general secretary Yazeen. 

TMSG reached out to Avramovic, who won a hattrick of ASEAN Football Championship with Singapore in 2005, 2007 and 2012.

Avramovic only confirmed that Tan asked him if he was going to come to Singapore at any time.

“My answer was yes and then he sent a message after that saying I should call him if I was in Singapore,” he said.


Certain members of the FAS leadership disagreed with the appointment of Jita, given that he has been out of touch with the modern game.

“Why Jita, what is his value in modern day football and why did Bernard Tan decide that he was the name to lead the review?” a member of the leadership asked.

Shouldn’t these decisions be debated, minuted and then signed off on were among the questions being posed, given the public interest?

The point that the review committee is not an independent one has also raised the ire of some of the members of the leadership team.

The other members of the committee are Vice-President Razali Saad, Lim Tong Hai, who are also full-time paid staff of government agency Sport Singapore and Council member Harman Ali.


One of the key changes made to the FAS Constitution was that most major decisions could be taken by the FAS Executive Committee, which comprises the President, the Deputy President, the Vice-Presidents, the Treasurer at the General Secretary as an ex-officio member. 

Article 40 of the FAS Constitution lays out very clearly how these decisions are supposed to be taken, including the time frame of the meetings, the quorum and how decisions are reached.

Does the FAS Constitution allow decisions to be handed down through WhatsApp without consultation? 

Is it acceptable for Council members to only read about pronouncements when it is carried by local media outlets? 

The changes to the FAS Constitution were made at the end of 2016 to curtail the powers of the general secretary, so that there was more collective decisioning by the leadership body.

What appears to be on the plate now is that the power seems to have ended up being centred around the current Acting President. 

And certain members of the FAS leadership are not exactly thrilled. 


After being parachuted into the FAS in 2014, Tan proudly proclaimed that he wanted to revolutionalise youth football, beginning with revamping the schools football scene.

Well, he has nothing to show for it yet and it has been almost a decade.

Then, just one month later in an interview with TODAY, former President Zainudin Nordin said that Tan was “working hard to develop football at the grassroots” and that he was “coming up with a plan to get more boys and girls to play football, learn the basics, and go under some form of structured training for 35 weeks of the year.”

“Bernard (Tan) wants to raise this to 15% in the immediate future, which means about 6,000 boys. The reason is simple — if you can get more boys playing football regularly at a young age, and teach them the fundamental skills properly, then you will be helping to expand the talent pool for elite development.”

See story here.

So in essence, it was Tan’s responsibility to get the game going at the youth level 10 years ago, and he has failed.


Over the last two weeks, there was chatter from within the affiliates about a possible convening of an extraordinary meeting to call for the resignation of the current leadership team.

TMSG can confirm that while there was action brewing, there appears to be one major stumbling block. 

Who will challenge Tan at the upcoming Congress so that he does not have a free road to the Presidency? 

And that is the current conundrum which Singapore football faces – ending up with a leader not many think highly of and who has already made quite a few missteps, including a one-to-one challenge to a fan on Instagram which he had to apologise for. 

An Acting President who is also not keen to privatise the Singapore Premier League, even though a global management consultancy believes the commercialisation of the league is possible and viable.

One coach, who was under the employment of the FAS over the last five years who is now longer part of the organisation, said, “Sadly, the reason why I left was because I saw no future in Singapore football with the current set-up and environment.”


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