After a quarter of a century, Singapore football finally has its first privatised professional club.
In an exclusive interview with The Straits Times, billionaire Forrest Li revealed he will helm the Lion City Sailors Football Club, a new private entity that will replace two-time champions Home United in the Singapore Premier League (SPL).
Lion City Sailors are Singapore’s first privatised football club (Yahoo)
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.
Shopee’s parent company buys Home United, renames it ‘Lion City Sailors’ (Mothership)
Sea, which is the parent company of Shopee, Garena, and SeaMoney, is assuming 100 per cent ownership of Singapore Premier League club, Home United.
They will also be changing their name to Lion City Sailors.
Boost for Singapore football as Lion City Sailors become first-ever privatised local club, following takeover by leading homegrown internet company Sea.
Singapore, February 14, 2020 – Lion City Sailors FC – formerly known as Home United Football Club – will make its debut in the upcoming Singapore Premier League (SPL) season under the new ownership of leading homegrown internet company, Sea.
The club today unveiled its new name, kit, and squad for the 2020 season, and set out its aim to achieve success in the SPL and spark a new era of development for Singapore football.
Local internet company Sea brings passion for football, management excellence
Sea, Singapore’s largest consumer internet company and parent of Shopee, Garena, and SeaMoney, is assuming 100% ownership of the club. Forrest Li, the founder, Chairman and Group CEO, of Sea, will serve as Chairman of Lion City Sailors FC.
Mr. Li said: “Sea is proud to be a Singaporean company, and we are proud to play our part in elevating Singapore football to the next level. 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.
“As a passionate fan myself, I know that Singapore has a huge community of people who love 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. We look forward to supporting the development of Lion City Sailors and guiding this great club into a new period of success.”
Lion City Sailors represent a natural extension of Sea’s long-standing commitment to the development of Singapore football, which includes Garena’s sponsorship of the Young Lions in 2016. Mr. Li has also been on the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) Council since 2017.
Outgoing Chairman of Home United, Winston Wong, said: “We are proud of all that the club has achieved over the years, and proud to pass the baton over to Sea, a company that shares our passion for football, commitment to community, and focus on achieving success.
“Thanks to the hard work of the club’s management committee over the years, the club is in a strong position both on and off the field, and ready for the next phase of success with Sea. All of us are excited to see the club reach even greater heights in the years to come.”
Accomplished coach and star signings to ignite the 2020 SPL season
Lion City Sailors are targeting domestic silverware and a place in the AFC Champions League in the coming season. With its sights firmly set on success in 2020, the Sailors will be led by Head Coach Aurelio Vidmar, the former captain of the Australian national football team. Vidmar joins the club after a hugely successful stint in Australia, where he led Adelaide United to the 2008 AFC Champions League final, becoming the first Australian team to earn this distinction.
The team has also been augmented with some key off-season signings including Lions stalwarts Hassan Sunny, Gabriel Quak, and Shahdan Sulaiman; Japanese defender Kaishu Yamazaki; as well as prolific Australian forward, Andy Pengelly.
Outlining the club’s ambitions for the upcoming season, Head Coach Aurelio Vidmar said: “The players and staff have worked really hard over the pre-season to lay the foundations for success this season. 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.”
Launch of new club set to catalyse Singapore football
The launch of Lion City Sailors is set to inject fresh momentum for the SPL, with the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) welcoming more corporate involvement that can invigorate the league. The FAS has identified this pilot project as an opportunity to build a sustainable model for local football that will encourage other corporate partners to follow suit.
The President of the FAS, Mr. Lim Kia Tong, expressed confidence that Sea’s involvement will strengthen the league. Remarking on Sea’s takeover of the club, Mr Lim said: “The FAS is committed to enhancing the professionalism of the SPL in order to establish it as a quality product. This pilot project is a significant milestone for the league as it enters its 25th season and marks a historical chapter that could potentially shape the future of the professional football landscape in Singapore. Sea has a proven track record of building and managing successful businesses, and the FAS has complete confidence in their ability to steer the club to new heights.”
Focus on youth development remains key to club’s vision of success
Youth development will remain an integral part of Lion City Sailors’ DNA as the club looks to groom the next generation of talents and bolster the ranks of its senior setup, as well as the Singapore national team.
“We aim to provide our youths the best possible platform to pursue their passion for football and develop their talents,” Mr. Li added. Plans are in the works to enhance the structure of the current youth academy.
The new SPL season kicks off on 29 February 2020, where the Sailors will take on defending champions Brunei DPMM at the Bishan Stadium.