FAS, Bill Ng trade salvos over donation saga ‘lies’

FAS, Bill Ng trade salvos over donation saga ‘lies’
(From L-R): FAS general secretary Winston Lee and Hougang United chairman Bill Ng. Photo: FAS and Hougang United Facebook pages
Published: 12:24 AM, April 19, 2017
Updated: 7:02 PM, April 19, 2017

SINGAPORE — The Football Association of Singapore (FAS) and FAS presidential hopeful Bill Ng on Tuesday (April 18) traded accusations, as the saga surrounding a S$500,000 donation deepened. 

Making public several documents, the FAS accused Mr Ng of lying that he was unaware of the purpose of the donation and called on him to “come clean” on why he chose to hide the role of former FAS president Zainudin Nordin in the transaction. 

In response, Mr Ng stood by his version of events and insisted that he had not dealt with Mr Zainudin on the matter. 

The development was the latest twist in a saga which began last Thursday and has threatened to overshadow the inaugural elections which will be held on April 29. 

Releasing a letter correspondence between Mr Ng and Mr Zainudin as well as photocopies of cheques and invoices, the FAS showed that Mr Ng knew that the donation — made in a series of payments between 2014 and 2015 — from his former club Tiong Bahru FC to the association would go to the Asean Football Federation (AFF) for the development of its Football Management System (FMS).

FAS general secretary Winston Lee said in a media statement which accompanied the documents: “Bill Ng has said that he agreed to make the donation ‘strictly on the basis that the money was used to benefit Singapore football, especially our local clubs.’ He has also disclaimed knowledge that the donation which Tiong Bahru FC made has gone to AFF. Bill Ng’s statements are all patently false. The following facts, and the supporting documents, will make that clear.”

A letter, dated Oct 9, 2014 and titled “Request for Donation”, was addressed to Mr Zainudin - a former Member of Parliament who was FAS president from April 2009 to November last year.   

In the letter, Mr Ng wrote: “I would like to…thank you for sharing and giving us the opportunity to contribute to the development of Football Association of Singapore and Asean Football Federation through the proposed Football Management System.” He added: “I am happy to inform you that we will contribute S$500,000 to ASEAN Football Federation through the FAS to develop this Football Management System.”

But on Tuesday, Mr Ng said the letter was prepared by Mr Lee, and the latter had directed him to “reproduce (it) using the Tiong Bahru FC letterhead to address to Mr Zainudin Nordin, confirming the ‘request to donate’”. 

Mr Ng said: “It was in this letter that the term ‘AFF Football Management System’ was first used. As such, all payment vouchers to the FAS thereafter by administrative staff of Tiong Bahru FC adopted this term.” 

He reiterated that he had “never dealt with Mr Zainudin Nordin on the matter of the donation to fund the Football Management System at any point”. Mr Ng added: “It was Winston Lee who met me on multiple occasions in 2014 to seek the donations from Tiong Bahru FC for a Football Management System to be developed for the benefit of Singapore football and ASEAN football”.

Mr Ng did not provide more details to back up his claims. He also did not reply to TODAY’s query on why he went ahead with the donation, after knowing it was meant for the AFF’s FMS. 

Apart from the letter, payment vouchers issued by Tiong Bahru FC to the FAS - each bearing the club’s letterhead - described the money from the cheques as being “payment for sponsorship of AFF Football Management Systems”.

Mr Lee said: “Bill Ng was well aware because he signed the cheques and also some of the payment vouchers... Bill Ng was not only intimately aware that the donation was going to AFF, but it was he who decided the purpose and the amount. He also gave the express instruction that the full amount was to go to AFF, and not to local football as he now claims.”

Citing the letter correspondence between Mr Ng and Mr Zainudin, Mr Lee pointed out: “It is clear that Bill Ng and Zainudin Nordin discussed the AFF Football Management System sometime prior to October 9, 2014, when this letter was sent.”

Mr Ng is leading Team Game Changers for the elections. The other team contesting the polls is headed by former FAS vice-president Lim Kia Tong. Over the past week, several members of Team LKT who were part of the previous FAS Council also waded into the fray, questioning why they were not briefed about the donation which was made during their tenure. 

On Tuesday, Mr Lee explained that he “saw nothing untoward about the arrangement” when Mr Zainudin first spoke to him about the donation. “It was Bill Ng’s prerogative to donate his club’s money as he wishes (assuming there is proper disclosure and approval by his club), and FAS Council approval was not needed and not sought because this was a donation which Bill Ng made to AFF, not FAS,” Mr Lee said. 

Mr Lee also hit back at Mr Ng for his “various unfounded accusations” against him. He added: “I am also puzzled by why Bill Ng would go to great lengths to insist that Zainudin had no role to play in this donation. Again, this is clearly false.” 

He has demanded an apology from Mr Ng: "Regretably, I believe Bill Ng's statement was intended to insinuate financial impropriety within FAS and to damage the credibility of FAS and myself.

"Given these clear facts which show otherwise, I call upon Bill Ng to wholly and unconditionally apologise for his statements."

When approached by TODAY on Monday, Mr Zainudin - who is the vice-principal of the ITE College East - declined comment and reiterated that he has stepped down from the FAS. He did not reply to TODAY’s phone calls, text messages and emails by press time on Tuesday.

In his response, Mr Ng reiterated that Mr Lee and the previous FAS Council “still (owe) the Singapore football fraternity answers” to several questions, including how was it possible that former FAS council members were unaware of the donation, and why it was not mentioned in the FAS’ 2015 annual report. 

Tuesday’s development came on the same day when its Electoral Committee formally approved all remaining 32 candidates for the elections. Nine members each from Team Game Changers and Team LKT are standing for the elections, along with 14 individual candidates. 

Asked to comment on the latest development and whether it would affect Mr Ng’s candidacy, Mr K Bala Chandran, who chairs the committee, would only say that tt was “unable for the time being to comment on or answer any aspect of your queries at this moment. We will do so in due course”.

Meanwhile, national sports governing body Sport Singapore (SportSG), which had called for a full explanation from the FAS over its usage of the donation from Tiong Bahru FC, said on Tuesday that it was looking into the matter and has requested the FAS to “provide full details on the donations”. 

The FAS is the most well-funded National Sports Association (NSA) in Singapore. On top of a S$25 million Tote Board grant, it also receives more than S$2 million in funding every year from SportSG. While the Tote Board’s money was previously channelled directly to the FAS, that will now be administered by SportSG instead from this year onwards – in line with the practice at other NSAs.

The historic polls, which come at a time when Singapore football is at one of its lowest points, were ordered by world governing body FIFA to end a long-time practice of FAS leaders being appointed by the Government. The saga has drawn the attention of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC). In response to TODAY’s queries, the AFC said: “This is primarily a matter for the FAS but the AFC is aware of the allegations and will continue to monitor the situation.”