(Source: www.straitstimes.com)

SINGAPORE – A probe into the alleged misuse of funds at Tiong Bahru Football Club has been launched, national sports agency Sport Singapore said on Thursday (April 20).

In a statement sent at 4.48pm, SportSG said that it had lodged a police report on Wednesday night.

It said: “Following the media reports that Tiong Bahru Football Club had donated $500,000 to the Asean Football Federation (AFF) through the FAS (Football Association of Singapore), SportSG looked into the matter, and received further information on 18 April 2017.

“On the same day, 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 Bahru 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.

“SportSG will also request to meet the FAS’ Ad-hoc Electoral Committee to clarify the way ahead for the upcoming elections.”

A police spokesman 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.”

Police officers were seen entering the offices of FAS, as well as the clubhouses of Tiong Bahru FC, Hougang United and Woodlands Wellington on Thursday afternoon. 

Police officers were seen entering the offices of FAS on Thursday afternoon. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

TBFC chairman Bill Ng, who is leading a team named Game Changers to contest the April 29 FAS election, had revealed on April 13 that TBFC had donated $500,000 to the AFF in support of its football management system in 2014.

The donation by the National Football League (NFL) second-tier club, which is an amateur outfit, has dominated the pre-election talk so far.

SportSG had on Monday gave its first comments about the ongoing $500,000 donation saga.

It added that the external audit it had requested, after receiving feedback from the public about the proposed merger between Hougang and Woodlands, and how the latter’s assets were being apportioned, was “taking longer than expected”.

This was in reference to questions about management of former S-League club Woodlands Wellington’s jackpot revenue. The audit was started in March 2016.

SportSG’s latest statement on Thursday added: ” On 3 April 2017, 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 Football Association of Singapore (FAS) Elections, scheduled to be held on 29 April 2017, with false reasons.

“The said audits had been initiated in mid-2016 by the FAS in response to queries by SportSG.

Fans of Woodlands, who had lodged the complaints, had also questioned Ng’s role in the merger, given that in 2011, part of his management team from Hougang helped to run debt-ridden Woodlands at the request of the S-League.

The merger, proposed in 2014, was eventually called off in 2016 with the FAS saying it was “not feasible for implementation”.

The Straits Times reported on Thursday that TBFC’s gross income for the financial year that ended in March last year was $36.8 million, eclipsing the FAS’ budget of $35.8 million for the same period.

Going back to FY 2010/2011, TBFC notched annual income figures ranging from $11 million to $36 million.

In a statement sent to ST early in the morning of April 20 – before news of the police investigation broke – Ng, who is also chairman of S-League club Hougang United, said: “Approximately 80 per cent to 85 per cent is returned to the player (RTP), or paid to winners who play the jackpot machines.

“Normally, after payouts and taxes, the club only has about 7 per cent of gross margins as surplus left for its operations costs.

“Tiong Bahru FC would like to offer its accounting records for inspection by SportSG or any government agency if necessary.

“Should SportSG or any other government agency like to view these records, please contact us and we will arrange for it to be carried out.”

TBFC’s expenses were of a similar magnitude, resulting in profits of between $140,000 and $700,000 for each of the seven years, going by Tiong Bahru’s annual returns, filed with the Registry of Societies. No breakdown of the expenses were available.

In FY 2009/2010, the club made $2.6 million but ended the year with a deficit of $19,000. In comparison, Tampines Rovers from the top-tier S-League, a recognised local football powerhouse, had an income of $3.6 million in the FY 2013/2014.

Facing Ng in the election is a side called Team LKT led by lawyer and former FAS vice-president Lim Kia Tong.

The election will be held at the Sports Hub next Saturday.

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