05 September 17 The Straits Times by ALVIN CHIA
The Football Association of Singapore (FAS) has clarified that there will be no changes to the format of the Women's Premier League (WPL) and Women's National League (WNL) this season.
This follows concerns expressed by the top flight's leading club Warriors FC that there would be changes to the format involving promotion and relegation this season.
Warriors, who are the defending champions and Women's Challenge Cup winners and also boast the largest number of Lionesses in their ranks with seven (in the latest call-up last month), had even threatened to pull out of the league if the changes had been implemented this season - after the competition had started.
Talk of a proposal - which, if carried out would have seen no WPL teams being relegated but two WNL teams promoted - had also left some clubs, like Arion Football Academy, puzzled especially with the season coming to an end soon.
However, the FAS, in a statement released yesterday, said: "The top two teams of WNL 2017 will be promoted to WPL 2018, while the last-placed team of WPL 2017 will be relegated to WNL 2018."
The FAS also said that this information was "previously shared with the clubs before the season" and insisted that it "did not suggest a format change at any point during the season".
Instead, it said "there was a suggestion from a club regarding promotion and relegation, but after careful consideration, the FAS Competitions Committee decided that there will not be any changes".
With the format unchanged, the number of clubs competing in the WPL next season will increase to six from the current five.
Clubs The Straits Times spoke to last night welcomed the clarification.
Paul Poh, the general manager of Warriors, said: "Now that the FAS has said there will be no change, we will take their word for it.
"But if they change the format again before the next season and allow the relegated team back to play in the top division, it is unacceptable and we will decide then again (if we would withdraw from the competition)."
However, he disputed the FAS' claim that it did not suggest a format change midway through the season. He said he received an e-mail from the FAS in July to inform the club that there would be no relegation for the league this season in order to increase the number of teams participating in the WPL eventually to eight. A meeting between the clubs was then suggested but it was not called.
There had also been a suggestion that there will be a play-off between the second-last WPL team and the runners-up of the nine-team WNL - to determine which team would play in the WPL the following season - in December but this was scrapped before the WPL season began in May.
But Yeong Sheau Shyan, player-coach of Arion, who are second-last in the standings, felt the FAS should not have removed the play-off.
She said: "In order to ensure that you really get the best teams in the WPL, there should have been a play-off.
"It won't be much of a loss for us if we go down to play in the lower division, because there could be more clubs for us to play against."
Despite the flap, the FAS indicated that, moving forward, it does intend to grow women's football.
It said: "The FAS would like to eventually see an increase in the number of teams participating in the women's leagues, and will continue to work with all stakeholders towards this goal."