S.League CEO Lim Chin quits, now’s the time for a football man to lead this most difficult job

Just try something new, S.League. Anything is better than the status quo.

By Martino Tan | January 4, 2017

When a person enters adulthood, his/her 21st birthday is usually a cause for celebration and reflection.

As the S.League enters its 21st season, it has these memories to reflect upon — a boss who will leave within a month, low match attendances, a lack of superstar/marquee players (Remember Jermaine Pennant? He has already left) and a general lack of enthusiasm all round.

The media reported yesterday (Jan 3) that Lim Chin, the CEO of the Great Eastern Yeo’s S.League, will step down from his post in March.

Lim, 54, has led the S.League since 2012.

S.League director of operations Kok Wai Leong will take over the running of S.league until a new CEO is appointed.

Although The Straits Times has reported earlier (Dec 30) that Lim “has been given an extended contract until the end of the 2017 season”, the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) announced that Lim will only be in charge until March 31, after the S.League’s February start to the 2017 season.

It’s not totally Lim’s fault. Really.

As the symbol of S.League, the former Chief of Artillery had been a figure of derision and unfairly highlighted as the cause of everything that is wrong with our embarrassing football league.

But Lim really tried.

Shortly after Lim took over in 2013, he led from the front to promote S.League by appearing topless in body paint with other football players in Orchard.

At the event, he told the S.league website that “the key thing here is that the League’s trying new ways, trying to find ways to do things better if things didn’t work out so well the last time. We’ll see whether this new idea has been effective, and we’ll keep on improving”.

Source: S-League website.
Source: S-League website.

So he tried new ways to ramp up the fans’ enthusiasm with various 20th anniversary celebratory events of the league last year.

It didn’t work.

And Lim didn’t get much help either.

Remember Johan Gouttefangeas?

In Jan 2012, the FAS hired Gouttefangeas as S.League Deputy CEO only for him to quit in less than a month, after Gouttefangeas’ failure to disclose that two businesses he owned in France went bankrupt.

FAS President Zainudin Nordin said that Gouttefangeas initially was picked for the S.League job because he had experience in football management and marketing, as well as contacts in Europe.

Five years later, he was still not replaced. So no deputy to assist Lim.

It’s sad that the CEO had to be the League’s own IT manager, “busy ensuring the S-League’s new website was running smoothly” when Yahoo! Singapore visited his office in 2012.

It’s even more depressing when FAS decided to make the strategic decision to take the heart out of the S.League to form the LionsXII, who played in the Malaysian Super League from 2012 to 2015. And at a cost of more than $4 million.

Step aside military men, how about a football man instead?

A quick look at the history of S.League reveals an unstable leadership, with the league experiencing a turnover of six CEOs in the past twenty years.

Significantly, S.League had been managed the longest by military men — Lim and Chris Chan — who led the league collectively for than a decade, half of S.League’s “teenage years”.

2012 – 2017: Lim Chin.
2006 – 2011: Winston Lee, former Director (Marketing and Communications) of S.League, who is now the General Secretary of FAS.
2004 – 2005: How See Yoong, IT professional, was Deputy CEO in 2004 and became CEO later.
2003 – 2004: Chan King Fook. He resigned after he decided not to renew his two-year contract with FAS. Chan joined the FAS in 2003.
1997 – 2002: Chris Chan. He resigned to become the Secretary General of the Singapore National Olympic Council. He is still its Sec-Gen.
1996 – 1997: Douglas Moore, former national team coach. Won the M-League and Cup double in 1994, Singapore’s last season before S.League was formed.

Lim, of course, is not a novice in Singapore football.

Prior to his appointment, he was the chairman of nine-time champions Warriors FC from 2002 to 2006.

As Lim said earlier, the League had been trying new ways to do things better.

So why not ditch the tried and tested way of appointing a military leader/football insider and go for a football man instead?

After all, it has been twenty years since we last hired a football man — Douglas Moore — to lead the league.

Will the S.League succeed with a great CEO?

As FAS interim president Lim Kia Tong told The Straits Times,

“A CEO job has always been very challenging, and it will continue to be so…The S.League definitely cannot change overnight, even if we change the whole team in the FAS, the S.League will still face challenges.”

Without the full support of FAS, the football administrators and the football community, the answer to the question above is an obvious no.

Yet the football man will say yes to the challenge. And take the S.League’s destiny in his own hands.

Because we have nothing much to lose anyway.

Top photo from Great Eastern Yeo’s S League Facebook.

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About Martino Tan

Martino’s parents named him after an Italian priest, Vatican's 1st ambassador to S’pore. He's inspired by the lives of Robert Kennedy & D. Bonhoeffer, the words of G.Orwell & T.Sorensen, & the music of the Beatles.

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