Football

Causeway derby to mark Sports Hub’s opening?

Published: September 19, 4:02 AM

SINGAPORE — Big-name football clubs like Manchester United, Liverpool and Barcelona have been bandied about, but it looks like the first match to mark the opening of the S$1.33 billion Sports Hub next April could instead be a clash between Causeway rivals Singapore and Malaysia.

Andrew Georgiou, the Chief Executive Officer of World Sport Group — which is the commercial partner of the Sports Hub — hinted at the Causeway derby as an “obvious” choice for the grand occasion.

“There are a couple of obvious choices that are possible. That (Singapore v Malaysia) would be the obvious choice,” said Georgiou, who spoke to TODAY on the sidelines of the Sports Matters seminar at The St Regis hotel yesterday.

“I think in the short term, people will expect to see Liverpool and Manchester United, European clubs at some point coming to Singapore and we hope to deliver that in the short term. But I think it would send the wrong message to open the venue with that kind of event because our focus is on local development of sport for local community.”

Indeed, Georgiou believes that the focus on local sporting content is key to ensuring the success of the 35-hectare Sports Hub, which has been billed as the world’s largest public-private-partnership.

That is why another key event for the Kallang facility will be the highly-anticipated ASEAN Super League (ASL), which is expected to kick off with eight South-east Asian clubs — including Singapore — in 2015 and run from February to September.

Added Georgiou: “For us, the ASEAN Super League is that local content. It will be a seismic change in the local sporting landscape, it will be a huge impact. The Malaysia Cup unlocked some rivalries, we need to unlock that on a more consistent basis.

“Singapore trying to run 12 teams is admirable, but the S-League is challenged because of too many teams trying to sustain themselves in a very small market. You need to embrace the neighbours.

“If we can get ASL off the ground, you will start seeing 20,000 to 30,000 people, up to 50,000, in the stadium on a much more regular basis because they can follow teams of much better quality and unlock rivalries.”

But as the Sports Hub works on creating local sporting events for its various facilities, it has already snared several international events.

These include the 2015 FINA World Junior Swimming Championship, the 2015 South-east Asian Games and the 2014–18 WTA Championships. Additional reporting by Adelene Wong