SportSG demands FAS clarification over ‘large donations’

SportSG demands FAS clarification over ‘large donations’
TODAY file photo
Recent questions raised over accountability of national football body’s usage of donations from Hougang United chairman Bill Ng
Published: 6:20 PM, April 16, 2017
Updated: 1:55 AM, April 17, 2017

SINGAPORE — Sport Singapore (SportSG), the governing body of local sports, has called for a full explanation from the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) over its usage of donations made by Hougang United chairman Bill Ng.

Ng, who is contesting the president’s role in the upcoming inaugural FAS elections as part of Team Game Changers, revealed on Thursday (Apr 13) that he had donated close to S$850,000 – at FAS’s request – to the national football body through his clubs Tiong Bahru FC and Hougang.

Of that amount, Ng mentioned that S$200,000 went to support the LionsXII in 2012, while he directed the media to query FAS general secretary Winston Lee over where the remaining funds went to.

Lee swiftly issued a response through FAS confirming the LionsXII donation, while adding that a further S$500,000 went towards the ASEAN Football Federation’s (AFF) Football Management System (FMS) and that Ng had “full knowledge” over the funds’ usage.

The Sunday Times reported that the FAS, in response to the newspaper's queries, revealed that it was then-FAS president Zainudin Nordin who had approached Ng for the S$500,000 donation to the AFF.

The huge figures bandied about have caught SportSG’s attention and a statement was sent out to the media on Sunday (Apr 16) afternoon calling on the “new council” of the FAS to account for the donations.

“Much has been reported about the management of large donations to or through the Football Association of Singapore (FAS), and the source and management of these funds,” a SportSG spokesperson said.

“As the sports sector charity administrator, Sport Singapore (SportSG) will require the new council to provide a complete and satisfactory report on the management of these matters.”

FAS is registered as an Institution of Public Character (IPC), defined by the Commissioner of Charities here as “exempt or registered charities which are able to issue tax deductible receipts for qualifying donations to donors”. 

As such, IPCs are “generally more appealing to donors in attracting donations” and are “rightfully held to a higher standard, both in terms of regulatory compliance as well as governance.”

In a statement sent at 11.36pm last night, Team Game Changers' Lau Kok Keng, a partner with law firm Rajah & Tann, who is vying for the deputy president post at the upcoming FAS elections called upon SportSG to get Lee and Zainudin to provide written explanations on the channeling of fund to the AFF.

Said Lau in the statement: “The issue of the donation to a foreign entity is one which the current administration/Secretariat and the previous Council must be accountable for. 

"Rather than wait till after the elections are over, it may be more expedient for SportSG to direct the General Secretary and former President of the FAS to provide written explanations at this point in time on the channeling of the donated sums to the benefit of the AFF. 

"It appears that both individuals may have direct, personal knowledge of the transactions involved, and their statements will go a long way towards unravelling what had transpired.
If elected to office, we will no doubt undertake a thorough review and audit of the FAS' processes and records, and will report all findings made in the interests of transparency and accountability, as" is expected of an institute of public character. We hope that in the meantime, all relevant evidence will be preserved.”

The donations issue was not the only matter that the SportSG statement was about however.

SportSG also revealed that it had asked the FAS in February 2016 to “provide justification” on why Tanjong Pagar United, Gombak United and Woodlands Wellington (WWFC) – former S.League clubs now sitting out of the league – should be “allowed to continue their tenancy” at SportSG facilities.

“Consequently, Gombak United and WWFC were required to vacate the premises at Bukit Gombak Stadium and Woodlands Stadium in Jun 2016 as there was no justifiable reason for them to remain,” the SportSG spokesperson said.

A month later, SportSG asked FAS to look into the proposed merger of WWFC with Hougang following the end of the 2014 S.League season, which ultimately fell through.

“Following the receipt of feedback from the public on the proposed merger of WWFC with Hougang United Football Club, and complaints over the management of jackpot revenue at WWFC, Sport Singapore, in March 2016, had asked the FAS to conduct an investigation to clarify the facts of the matter, address irregularities if any, and provide Sport Singapore with a report,” read the statement.

SportSG indicated that it is still waiting on the results of the investigation into the “sit-out” clubs.

“Meanwhile, the FAS Provisional Council, which had reached the end of its term, had recently informed SportSG that that the external auditors engaged by the FAS to audit the S.League sit-out clubs required more time to complete the audit, specifically with respect to certain transactions,” the SportSG spokesperson added.

"SportSG will await the completion of the audit and the submission of the report, which is taking longer than expected, before deciding on follow-up actions.”

Ng had claimed on Thursday that the idea of the merger between Hougang and WWFC was “mooted and initiated entirely by the FAS” and that he is no longer involved with WWFC following the subsequent merger breakdown.

“Because of this failure, I returned Woodlands back to the FAS,” he asserted. “So, to clarify, I have nothing to do with a the affairs of Woodlands right now.”