SINGAPORE Discussions have taken place about scrapping Singapore's ailing 10-team soccer league, the Straits Times reported on Wednesday.
Unhappy club chairmen met with Football Association of Singapore (FAS) officials on Monday, where heated exchanges took place over slumping attendances and the inability to find sponsors, the paper said.
The league was reduced from 12 teams this season after one withdrew because of costs and two others merged, with the paper reporting that the remaining 10 received subsidies of S$800,000 ($593,384) a year.
"Even our national coach was quoted as saying he does not go to S.League games, so we told the FAS that things need to change," an unnamed chairman told the daily.
"We have grown tired of sourcing for sponsors and wooing fans when FAS themselves have their eyes on the Lions XII and the Asean Super League."
The Lions XII are a Singapore select side that play in the Malaysian Super League, with their Malaysian counterparts Hariman Muda one of three foreign sides to compete in the S.League.
Club chairmen are unhappy that a number of Singapore's best players are ring-fenced off from them in order to play for the Lions or the Young Lions, a Singaporean under-23 side that plays in the S.League.
Singapore are also expected to home two franchises in the Southeast Asian Super League, which has been slated for next year.
Where those players will come from is a concern for club chairmen, who have seen attendances slump to less than 500 in some matches this season, the league's 20th.
Three options were discussed at Monday's meeting at the Jalan Besar Stadium, the paper said, with one involving scrapping the S.League and focussing on having four teams competing in Malaysia and the Southeast Asian Super League.
Another option was to dump the Young Lions and Lions XII, while the third was to involve a larger number of younger players in the S.League.
While fans in the wealthy city-state turn away from domestic action as the national team have slumped to their worst ever position of 162nd in the world rankings, they continue to look elsewhere, mainly England, for their football fix.
"The leagues in Thailand and Malaysia are pulling away and the standards of once footballing minnows like Guam and Cambodia are catching up with ours," another unnamed chairman said.
"If these aren't enough to scream that change is needed, I don't know what is."
($1 = S$1.3482)
(Writing by Patrick Johnston; Editing by John O'Brien)