EXCLUSIVE: FAS under FIFA scrutiny

28th SEA Games Singapore 2015 - Jalan Besar Stadium Singapore - 8/6/15 Football - First Round - Cambodia v Singapore - Cambodia's Goalkeeper Serei Rath concedes a goal SEAGAMES28 TEAMSINGAPORE Mandatory Credit: Singapore SEA Games Organising Committee / Action Images via Reuters

Michael Y.P. Ang is a Singaporean freelance journalist. In 1999, he was among the core group of journalists who helped launch Channel NewsAsia, where he covered sport for several years. He had also worked at the former Singapore Sports Council. Follow his Facebook page Michael Ang Sports for his views on sport in Singapore.  

The Singapore government's decades-long, direct involvement in the affairs of the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) is under scrutiny by football’s world governing body FIFA.   

In an email to Yahoo, a FIFA spokesperson said the organisation wants to end third-party influence in the FAS, even if that third party is a government ministry. 

FIFA was responding to a Yahoo query regarding its views on Singapore's Minister for Culture, Community and Youth (formerly Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports) appointing the FAS president and other members of the FAS Council, which governs Singapore's biggest sport. 

Under the April 2015 edition of FIFA Statutes, such third-party influence is prohibited. Article 17.1 states "Each Member shall manage its affairs independently and with no influence from third parties". A Member refers to a national football association.

FIFA told Yahoo that "Office holders of FIFA Members shall be either elected or appointed within their Association. FIFA Members’ statutes shall provide for a procedure that guarantees the complete independence of the election or appointment from third parties, including Ministries." 

Under Article 19.3 of the FAS Constitution, "All Council Members shall be appointed by the Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports in his discretion and shall, unless otherwise decided by the Minister, hold office for a period of two years”.

The FAS Constitution clearly states the Minister is also empowered to extend the term of office beyond the minimum two years. 

While the FAS constitution is potentially in violation of Article 17.1 of the FIFA Statutes, the FAS appears to have tried to make its method of selecting office holders more palatable in the eyes of FIFA. 

Article 19.4 of the FAS Constitution states "The appointments of the FAS Council members shall be confirmed by an absolute majority of Members present at the AGM, that is more than 50% of those present and are eligible to vote at the AGM".  Members include individuals from clubs, football leagues, referees' groups, coaches' groups and so on.

In other words, if clubs, football leagues, referees' groups and other Members attending the FAS AGM do not approve of the Minister's appointments, he would have to change all or some of his choices. However, there is no evidence this has happened before.

Despite Article 19.4 in the FAS Constitution, FIFA insists that "Any FIFA Member whose office holders are not elected or appointed within their Association, even on an interim basis, shall not be recognised by FIFA". 

By having the government directly involved in the appointment of its office holders, the FAS is in danger of suffering the same fate as the Indonesian FA, which is currently under FIFA suspension for government meddling in its domestic league

Referring to Singapore, a FIFA spokesperson said, "In the case of Singapore FA, FIFA is aware of the matter and is working to ensure that the FIFA Statutes are respected in this regard."

In a worst case scenario, FAS could be suspended by FIFA. This means that all national football activities will come to a halt. 

Yahoo has reached out to FAS for comment.

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