Friday April 21, 2017
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Investigators at Tiong Baru Football Club clubhouse at People’s Park Centre. — TODAY picInvestigators at Tiong Baru Football Club clubhouse at People’s Park Centre. — TODAY picSINGAPORE, April 21 — A police raid of the headquarters of the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) and three football clubs yesterday sent shockwaves through the sports fraternity, as the public spat between Hougang United chairman Bill Ng and FAS general secretary Winston Lee over a S$500,000 (RM 1.5 million) donation quickly escalated into the biggest scandal to hit local football in recent times.

The drama started at 4.47pm yesterday, when Sport Singapore (SportSG), the national governing body for sports, said that it had filed a police report against Tiong Baru FC for suspected misuse of club funds, as well as a purported attempt by a senior club official — understood to be Ng — to obstruct the completing of audits of the S.League’s sit-out clubs. 

“SportSG received a letter from a named individual alleging that a senior officer of a Football Club had instigated another Club to delay and/or obstruct the completion of audits until after the FAS Elections, scheduled to be held on April 29, with false reasons,” SportSG said in its statement, referring to the landmark election where FAS’s 44 affiliates will pick the sport’s leaders.

Ng — leader of Team Game Changers — is taking on former FAS vice-president Lim Kia Tong of Team LKT in the elections. 

But before the SportsSG statement made headlines, Commercial Affairs Department officers had already arrived at the Tiong Baru FC clubhouse in the basement of People’s Park Centre. Police officers later raided the clubhouses of Hougang United (HGFC) at Hougang Stadium, and Woodlands Wellington FC (WWFC) at Prinsep Street, and also went to the FAS headquarters at the Jalan Besar Stadium. 

Tiong Baru is a National Football League (NFL) Division 1 side, while the other two, Hougang and Woodlands, are S.League clubs.  

Dressed in civilian attire, the officers were seen entering the offices and clubhouses with laptops, briefcases and cardboard boxes before leaving the four premises with files, documents and computers. 

The raids went well into the night and a Woodlands Wellington staff was later seen being escorted into an unmarked police car. Over at Hougang, HGFC general manager Matthew Tay was also seen leaving the premises with police officers.

Hougang United chairman Ng, who is also closely linked to the other two clubs, was not present at any of the facilities during the raid. According to a Team Game Changers spokesman, he spent the day in his office with friends.

The spokesman for the 57-year-old businessman, described as a mergers and acquisitions specialist, added: “Bill Ng will be fully cooperating with the authorities over this matter.”

Lee was spotted entering the FAS office at about 6.20pm, some 50 minutes after the raid by the police began. He did not speak to the media.

In a statement sent early today morning, a FAS spokesman said: “We have extended, and will continue to extend, our fullest cooperation to the police during their investigation. As investigations are ongoing, it would not be appropriate for us to comment further on the matter.”

TODAY understands that SportSG had received feedback from a member of the public on the proposed merger of Hougang United with Woodlands Wellington — which is sitting out the S.League season — and complaints over the management of the jackpot revenue at Woodland’s Prinsep clubhouse. The merger subsequently fell through.

SportSG had asked the FAS in March 2016 to investigate and clarify the issue over the jackpot revenue. 

Ng’s stunning relevation of Tiong Baru’s S$500,000 donation to the Asean Football Federation (AFF) via the FAS at a press conference last Thursday had also prompted SportSG to look into the matter. 

It added in its statement: “SportSG also made further checks, which raised other serious questions about the use of Club funds. 

“Based on legal advice, SportSG decided to file a police report on 19 April 2017 at about 7:50pm, in respect of suspected misuse of Tiong Baru Football Club’s funds and a purported attempt by a senior officer of the Club to delay and/or obstruct the completion of audits into the S.League sit-out clubs.”

A spokesperson from the Singapore Police Force said on Thursday: “In response to media queries, the Police confirm that a police report has been lodged by Sport Singapore in relation to a football club. 

“The Police will conduct a thorough investigation and will take appropriate action against any persons who have committed offences in Singapore. As investigations are ongoing, it is inappropriate to comment further at this point.”

The spat between Ng and Lee which saw both men hurling accusations at each other, and yesterday’s police raid on the three clubs and the FAS, has since threatened to overshadow the FAS’s first-ever election in its history.  — TODAY

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