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The New Paper
Thursday, Feb 16, 2017

Sports

Ambitious Hougang eye S.League breakthrough

The New Paper | Shamir Osman | Thursday, Feb 16, 2017

Hougang chairman Bill Ng (left) posing with Datuk Vinod Sekhar, founder and chairman of Malaysian company Green Rubber Global, one of the club's new sponsors.

Photo: Berita Harian

Hougang United have never finished higher than sixth in the S.League, let alone win a major trophy.

But, change is already afoot - the club have installed new dug-outs and a dressing room that is the envy of the league - and the Cheetahs' revolution looks set to gather pace in 2017 .

Indeed, the club believe they can end the year with at least one trophy.

"We believe we can do something, and it is because of all the systems that we have put in place," said Hougang chairman Bill Ng, at the club's season launch at Fullerton Bay Hotel's rooftop bar, Lantern.

Few would bet against them.

Hougang are the only self-sufficient S.League club, that do not require the league's $800,000 annual subsidy to fund their operations.

Now they have teamed up with local IT firm RetinAR to fund a football data analytics programme to generate revenue to further aid their cause on the field.

The proprietary rights of the programme will be retained by the club.

The club have brought on board three new sponsors - Malaysian recycling and technology company Green Rubber Global, as well as two Singapore companies, ESW Manage, and Living Star - and Ng insists that he does not handle much of the day-to-day running of the club anymore.

"In addition to the systems that we've implemented to make sure the club are self-sufficient and run smoothly on a day-to-day basis, we've also put in place succession planning," said Ng.

"Now the club are being run by Jeffrey Sim and Eric Koh, our vice-chairmen.

"And we want our administrators and even technical staff to take responsibility."

And it appears that the spirit has started to seep through the club.

"We sat with the players while we were in Bangkok for a pre-season trip, and we were all in agreement that we want to win a trophy this season," said Hougang coach Philippe Aw.

"As it turns out, that was the management's target for us as well," added Aw, who is excited by the new technology that the club are embracing.

They are also working with Green Rubber Global on a charitable programme - Lantern of Hope - aimed at children.

"We need innovation, evolution, but more importantly we need people who want to change the narrative," said Datuk Vinod Sekhar, founder and chairman of Green Rubber Global, on the alignment of his organisation and the Cheetahs.

Turning to the players, he said: "You players represent something different, you inspire the next generation of youth. we're sponsoring you because we think you make a difference."

If Aw is any indication, the club are embracing this culture of evolution.

He said: "Off the field, we're trying to be professional. We've changed our dug-outs, done up our dressing room, and we're dressed in suits now, too.

"This is about changing the whole image of football here, and it's about time we caught up with the rest of the football world."

Cheetahs' chairman Ng has previously hinted that he may run for the presidency of the Football Association of Singapore (FAS). It is a move he has yet to confirm, and he was similarly cryptic last night when quizzed on the matter.

"If I'm blessed to be able to get to implement similar systems for Singapore football, I will," he said.

shamiro@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on February 16, 2017.
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