The Football Association of Singapore (FAS) has confirmed that the 2020 AIA Singapore Premier League (SPL) will restart on October 17, announced the Singaporean Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth which approved the league to resume.

The league was halted since March 24 following the rising cases of COVID-19 pandemic in the republic. 

Image: http://spl.sg

Teams were only allowed to resume training – albeit in small groups – in mid-June, and further extended to full training in September, paving the way towards resuming competitive action.

With this approval, SPL is on track to be completed by the end of the calendar year. 

This will be made possible as the format of the tournament has been revised to two rounds from the original three, meaning that each club will face each other only twice.

In addition, this year’s Singapore Cup has also been annulled in order to facilitate the League’s completion. 

The remaining matches will be played behind closed doors with only essential match-day personnel, including medical staff, to be present onsite. 

While SPL fans will not be allowed into the stadium, they can watch their teams live on Singtel TV, StarHub TV and myCujoo, as well as the SPL and 1 Play Sports’ Facebook pages.  

On October 17, Tanjong Pagar United will host Balestier Khalsa at Jurong East Stadium while Tampines Rovers play Hougang United at Our Tampines Hub. 

The next day, Lion City Sailors will welcome Geylang International at Bishan Stadium, while Young Lions face Albirex Niigata (S) at Jurong West Stadium. All matches will kick-start at 5.30 pm. 

Four games have been played thus far with Tampines Rovers currently occupying the top spot, followed by Geylang International and Albirex Niigata (S), who have played three games each.

As part of the restart, a total of 223 players from the eight local-based clubs and SPL match officials underwent the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) swab test and all the results have come back negative. 

As part of the resumption protocols, these tests will be conducted every two weeks for the same group of personnel. 

The president of FAS Lim Kia Tong said that the association is pleased with the decision announced by the ministry on the resumption of the SPL. 

“This is an outcome that the FAS and the SPL clubs, along with Sport Singapore and the relevant government authorities, have worked tirelessly towards in recent weeks,” he said.

“Our utmost thanks and appreciation go out to the various government agencies who have helped in making the resumption happen.”

Since the league’s suspension, he added, players and staff have endeavoured to maintain their physical and match fitness and morale despite only being allowed to resume full training in September. 

“This marked a significant step towards resuming competitive action and now that there is a definitive timeline for resumption, I am sure they are all raring to go again,” said Lim. 

He also wished to have supporters to be allowed but adhering to strict safety protocols, supporters can still cheer for their favourite teams on television or online. This example is expected to pave the way for more local sports leagues and events to resume.  

On the subject of reigning champions Brunei DPMM FC, he remarked that FAS has provided the Bruneian outfit with an option of having their matches played in Singapore considering the recommended protocols. 

This follows the club’s missed confirmation deadline on October 12 to confirm their participation.

Both SPL and FAS reiterated that the Bruneian club has been an integral part of SPL for years and welcomed their continued participation in its resumption.

Brunei DPMM FC coach Adrian Pennock has overseen staggered groups-of-10 training sessions since July end.

“Ideally, we would want to defend the title, even if we have not had a single full training session since the break, we showed our quality by beating Tampines Rovers 2-0 at home in our first and only game this season,” he said.

Pennock added: “But we also respect the rules of the (Brunei) government. We are not in control of the final decision, but the morale within the team is good. It is not an easy situation to be inland as we will keep our heads down and keep working.”

Image: http://spl.sg

Several amendments have been made to the Laws of the Game for the remainder of the SPL season in order to be aligned with leagues across the world. 

Such example of the temporary amendment is the use of a maximum of five substitutions. 

Two mandatory water breaks will also be introduced to help the players cope with rigorous play after months of non-competitive football. Players will have to use personalised bottles with 60-second breaks permitted at each half.

The revision and annulment of the Singapore Cup dictate Singapore’s entry for the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) club competitions in 2021. 

As per the competition manual, the top-ranked local team will qualify directly for the AFC Champions League group stage, while the next two highest-ranked local teams will qualify directly for the AFC Cup group stage.

The Bruneian | KUALA LUMPUR

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