Lion City Sailors are Singapore's first privatised football club

Lion City Sailors FC players pose in their new club colours. (PHOTO: Amirul Asyraf/Lion City Sailors FC)
Lion City Sailors FC players pose in their new club colours. (PHOTO: Amirul Asyraf/Lion City Sailors FC)

SINGAPORE — The Singapore Premier League (SPL) will see its first privatised professional football club, when the Lion City Sailors FC – formerly known as Home United – make their debut in the new season later this month.

The club unveiled their name, kit and squad on Friday (14 February), as they begin a new era under homegrown internet company Sea – the parent company of Shopee, Garena and SeaMoney – which will assume 100 per cent control of the club.

Forrest Li, Sea’s founder, chairman and chief executive officer, will serve as chairman of Lion City Sailors.

Strong squad to challenge for honours

He has already assembled a formidable squad in a bid to challenge for the SPL title and qualify for the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League, with former Australian national team skipper Aurelio Vidmar as the head coach.

Past and present national players have beefed up the team which finished sixth last season – Shahril Ishak, Hassan Sunny, Gabriel Quak and Shahdan Sulaiman – while foreign signings Andy Pengelly from Australian club Brisbane strikers and Kaishu Yamazaki from Albirex Niigata will hope to impress.

The Sailors have retained the majority of Home United's staff and players, and will take over the Home United Youth Football Academy at Mattar Road, according to The Straits Times.

“The players and staff have worked really hard over the pre-season to lay the foundations for success this season,” said Vidmar, who had he led Adelaide United to the 2008 AFC Champions League final.

“This is a hugely exciting moment for the club and we will work hard to give our fans a lot to cheer about this season.”

Home United, which had their roots with the Police Sports Association and were one of the founder members of the SPL in 1996, will be dissolved within the year.

Differences in financial operations

As a privatised football club, Lion City Sailors will not be allowed to run jackpot operations, unlike the other five senior SPL clubs and Japanese SPL side Albirex Niigata – all of whom are registered societies.

According to The Straits Times, the Sailors also opted not to receive the estimated $1 million in subsidies from the Tote Board, which is disbursed by Sport Singapore to offset SPL clubs’ operational costs. Instead, Sea will finance the operations.

“By uniting with a club with a rich heritage, exceptional fans, and a great organisation, we intend for Lion City Sailors to set a new benchmark for footballing excellence in Singapore and the region,” Li said.

“As a passionate fan myself, I know that Singapore has a huge community of people who loves football, and our hope is that Lion City Sailors will strengthen that passion and ignite a new era for the development of the game locally.”

Lion City Sailors will begin their inaugural SPL season on 29 February, when they take on defending champions Brunei DPMM at the Bishan Stadium.

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