Singapore Premier League

The Singapore Premier League, commonly abbreviated as SPL, officially known as the AIA Singapore Premier League for sponsorship reasons, is a men's professional football league sanctioned by the Football Association of Singapore (FAS), which represents the sport's highest level in the Singapore football league system.

Singapore Premier League
Organising bodyFootball Association of Singapore (FAS)
Founded14 April 1996; 28 years ago (1996-04-14) (as S. League)
31 March 2018; 6 years ago (2018-03-31) (as Singapore Premier League)
CountrySingapore (8 teams)
Other club(s) fromBrunei (1 team)
Number of teams9
Level on pyramid1
Domestic cup(s)Singapore Cup
Singapore Community Shield
International cup(s)AFC Champions League 2
Current championsAlbirex Niigata (S) (6th title)
Most championshipsWarriors FC (9 titles)
Most appearances Daniel Bennett (518)
Top goalscorerAleksandar Đurić (385)
TV partners1 Play Sports (live streaming)
Singtel TV
J Sports
Current: 2024–25 Singapore Premier League

The competition was founded as the S. League on 14 April 1996 after the FAS announced its intention to promote and expand the growing local football community by having a top level domestic league. As of 2022, the league comprises eight clubs, consisting of three rounds in which each team plays every other team once. Seasons run from late March to October, with teams playing 21 matches each, totalling 147 matches in the season.

Successful SPL clubs gain qualification into Asian continental club competitions, including the AFC Champions League 2. SPL currently does not practice promotion and relegation. Since the league's inception in 1996, 7 clubs have been crowned champions. Warriors FC[a] have been the most successful club with 9 titles, followed by Albirex Niigata Singapore (6),Tampines Rovers (5), Lion City Sailors (3),[b] Geylang International (2), DPMM (2) and Étoile (1). The current champions are Albirex Niigata, the Japanese satellite team, having won their fifth S-League title in the 2023 season.

History edit

Origins edit

Singapore had been represented in the Malaysia Cup through the Singapore Lions since 1921. The Lions were one of the most successful teams in the competition, having won it 24 times from 1921 to 1994. Following a dispute over gate receipts between the FAS and FAM[1] after winning the league and cup double in 1994, the Lions withdrew from the Malaysian competitions.

Subsequently, the Football Association of Singapore decided to build a professional league system. However, as it was estimated to take about a year to put in place the structure of a professional league, the Singapore Lions were given match practice in what was then the top level of domestic football, the semi-professional FAS Premier League. This team won the last FAS Premier League title, finishing the season unbeaten.

S. League era (1996–2017) edit

Inaugural season edit

The S.League was founded in 1996. The FAS invited applications for clubs to compete in the newly formed league. Eight successful applications were made. Two clubs from the Premier League – powerhouse Geylang International (renamed Geylang United; 6 consecutive Premier League titles) and Balestier United (renamed Balestier Central – joined six from the amateur National Football League – Police SA, Singapore Armed Forces, Tampines Rovers, Tiong Bahru United, Wellington (renamed Woodlands Wellington) and Sembawang Rangers (merger of Gibraltar Crescent and Sembawang SC) – for the inaugural edition of the S.League. The season was split into the two series. Tiger Beer Series winners Geylang United defeated Pioneer Series winners Singapore Armed Forces 2–1 in the end of season championship playoff to be crowned the 1st S.League champions.[2] The 30,000 crowd at the playoff remains the record attendance in the S.League.

Expansion of the league edit

Police FC renamed themselves as Home United for the 1997 season to reflect their representation of not only the Singapore Police Force, but also other HomeTeam Departments of the Singapore Ministry of Home Affairs such as the SCDF and the ICA. NFL side Jurong Town, who renamed themselves Jurong FC, joined the competition taking the number of participating clubs to 9. The league switched from its previous format to a round-robin competition. Singapore Armed Forces won their first title.

Gombak United and Marine Castle United joined the S.League in 1998, further taking the number of clubs to 11. Tiong Bahru United renamed themselves to Tanjong Pagar United at the start of the season. Singapore Armed Forces won their second consecutive title.

Clementi Khalsa joined the S.League in 1999 as a representative of the Sikh community in Singapore. The league took on 12 teams for the next five years. Home United won their first title.

Invited clubs edit

During the 2000s, the FAS decided to invite foreign clubs to the league to increase league competitiveness. Sinchi, a side composed of Chinese players became the first foreign club to participate in 2003. Chinese national Shi Jiayi and Qiu Li went on to become naturalised Singapore players.

Sporting Afrique, a club made up of African players, and Super Reds, a side comprising South Korean players, became the third and fourth foreign clubs to join the competition in 2006 and 2007 respectively. Sporting Afrique were refused entry into the 2007 S.League due to off-field controversies and poor performance. In 2010, Super Reds were denied a place after three seasons following attempts to convert into a team of local players.

Chinese Super League clubs Liaoning (2007), Dalian Shide (2008) and Beijing Guoan (2010) entered their feeder clubs in the S.League. All three clubs each lasted one season before being pulled out of the league due to poor performances and disciplinary issues. Bruneian club DPMM joined the S.League in 2009 before being pulled from the league as a result of a FIFA ban. They re-entered the league from 2012. They were the first club to base themselves outside of Singapore. In 2010, French club Étoile became the first foreign side to win the S.League. Etoile pulled out of the S.League prior to the 2012 season to focus on grassroots football and youth development.

In 2012, Malaysia national youth sides Harimau Muda A and Harimau Muda B joined the S.League following an agreement between the Football Association of Singapore and the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) to send their representative sides into their respective domestic competitions. Singaporean side LionsXII returned to the Malaysian competitions in 2012. Echoing the former Singapore FA, the LionsXII quickly became a successful force in the Malaysian league system during its short stint, winning the league title in 2013 as well as the FA Cup in 2015.

However, on 25 November 2015, the FAM decided not to extend their Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the FAS. This automatically disqualified LionsXII from further entering any football tournament in Malaysia. Similarly, Malaysia's squad Harimau Muda did not participate in the Singapore League from then onwards.[3]

J.League club Albirex Niigata entered their feeder club Albirex Niigata Singapore in the 2004 S.League. The club became the most established foreign side in the S.League, drawing on the support the Japanese expatriate community and some local fans. As of 2023, they are the foreign side with the longest involvement in Singaporean football.

20th season edit

The league took on a number of changes for the 2015 season to increase its competitiveness.[4][5] The number of clubs was reduced from 12 to 10, with the withdrawal of Tanjong Pagar United due to financial problems, and the merger of Woodlands Wellington and Hougang United.[4][6] The league returned to a three-round format used from 2001 to 2011.[4] The foreign player quota remained at five per club, but incentives were given to those who signed an under-21 player.[6] The passing time for the mandatory 2.4 km fitness test was lowered from 10 mins to 9 mins 45 s.[4] A new rule on age restrictions – a maximum of five players aged 30 and above and a minimum of three under-25 players for clubs with a 22-man squad, a maximum of four players aged 30 and above and a minimum of two under-25 players for clubs with a 20-man squad – was later reversed.[6][7]

Rebranding as Singapore Premier League (2018–present) edit

The league was rebranded as the Singapore Premier League on 21 March 2018. Further revamps were also made to see a greater emphasis on local youth players in a bid to strengthen the national side; this, in effect, has resulted in a number of senior as well as local and foreign stars being purchased by overseas clubs.[8]

Singapore Premier League clubs can sign a maximum of four foreign players in the 2020 season, up from three as compared in the 2019 season. In the 2022 season, All eight team will play a four-round format for the first time in its entire league history. The 2024–25 Singapore Premier League season will be the first season to have a two-year schedule in the league history.

Competition format edit

Structure edit

Teams receive three points for a win and one point for a draw. No points are awarded for a loss. Teams are ranked by total points, then goal difference, and then goals scored.

At the end of each season, the club with the most points is crowned league champion. If the points, goal difference, goals scored, and head-to-head results between teams are equal, head-to-head records between the teams are used, followed by a better fair play record.

There is no relegation or promotion system in the league. Clubs enter the Singapore Premier League by invitation of the Football Association of Singapore.

Season No. of Clubs Matches per Club Notes
1996 8 14 × 2 series One title playoff match between series winners at the end of the season.
1997 9 16
1998 11 20
19992000 12 22
20012003 12 33 In 2003, matches proceeded to a penalty shootout in the event of a draw.
Shootout winners were awarded an extra point on top of the draw.
20042005 10 27
2006 11 30
20072011 12 33 DPMM's results were expunged towards the end of 2009 following a FIFA ban, officially leaving 11 teams playing 30 matches each.
2012 13 24
20132014 12 27 The league was split into two-halves after matchday 22.
Teams in each half play every other team from their half once, for an additional five matches.
Results in the 2nd phase were added to that in the 1st phase for overall standings.
2015 10 27 The league returned to a three-round format.
20162017 9 24
20182019 9 24
2020 8 14
2021 8 21
2022 8 28 The league will play a four-round format for the first time in its entire history.
2023– 9 24 The league returned to a three-round format.
2024–25 9 32 The league returned a four-round format.

Clubs edit

A total of 25 clubs have played in the league from its inception in 1996 up to and including the 2022 season. The following 9 clubs are competing in the league during the 2023 season. There are two non-Singaporean clubs that currently compete in the Singapore Premier League – Albirex Niigata (S) is a satellite team of the Japanese club of the same name and DPMM of the Brunei.

Team Founded Based Stadium Capacity Former Name
Albirex Niigata (S) 2004 Jurong East Jurong East Stadium 2,700
Balestier Khalsa 1898 Toa Payoh Toa Payoh Stadium 3,800 formed from merger of Balestier Central and Clementi Khalsa in 2002.
DPMM 2000 Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium 28,000
Geylang International 1973 Bedok Bedok Stadium 3,800 known as Geylang United from 1996 to 2012.
Lion City Sailors 1946 Bishan Bishan Stadium 6,254 known as Police FC in debut season; formerly Home United.
Hougang United 1998 Hougang Hougang Stadium 6,000 known as Marine Castle United (1998–2001), Sengkang Marine (2002–2003), Sengkang Punggol (2006–2010; merger with Paya Lebar Punggol).
Tampines Rovers 1945 Tampines Our Tampines Hub 5,000
Tanjong Pagar United 1974 Queenstown Queenstown Stadium 3,800 known as Tiong Bahru Constituency Sports Club (1974-1996), Tiong Bahru United (1996-1998).
Young Lions 2002 Kallang Jalan Besar Stadium 6,000 Sponsorship name; Courts Young Lions (2011-2015), Garena Young Lions (2016-2017).

Balestier Khalsa, Geylang International and Tampines Rovers are clubs that have played in all 28 seasons of the Singapore Premier League as of 2024.

Former clubs edit

Team Years
Gombak United 1998–2002
Woodlands Wellington 1996–2014
Sembawang Rangers 1996–2003
Jurong FC 1997–2003
Warriors FC 1996–2019
Tiong Bahru United 1996-1997

Years indicates seasons active in the league.

Invited clubs edit

Team Years Notes
Sinchi 2003–2005 Chinese club
Albirex Niigata (S) 2004–present Satellite club of Albirex Niigata of Japan
Sporting Afrique 2006 African expatriate team
Liaoning Guangyuan 2007 Satellite club of Liaoning of China
Super Reds 2007–2009 Korean expatriate team
Dalian Shide Siwu 2008 Satellite club of Dalian Shide of China
DPMM 2008–present Club based in Brunei
Beijing Guoan Talent 2010 Satellite club of Beijing Guoan of China
Étoile 2010–2011 French expatriate team
Harimau Muda A 2012 Malaysian youth national teams playing as clubs
Harimau Muda B 2013–2015

Years indicates seasons active in the league Domestic based are foreign clubs which are based in Singapore.

Sponsorship edit

After an inaugural season with no sponsorship, the league was sponsored by Great Eastern from 2009 until 2018 where Yeo's and Hyundai become the joint sponsorship, during which time it was known as the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League and the Great Eastern-Hyundai S.League. In 2019, Hong Kong-based multinational insurance and finance corporation sponsored the league as their main sponsor.

For the 2018 season, the league was rebranded the Singapore Premier League.

Period Sponsor Brand
1996–2008 No sponsor S.League
2009–2016 Great Eastern-Yeo's Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League
2017–2018 Great Eastern-Hyundai Great Eastern-Hyundai S.League
2019–present AIA AIA Singapore Premier League

International competitions edit

Qualification for Asian competitions edit

The league's winners qualify for the AFC Champions League, while Singapore Cup winners qualify for the AFC Cup playoff spot. In the event of the same club winning both the S.League and Singapore Cup, the runners-up of the league takes up the AFC Cup qualification spot. Foreign clubs are ineligible to represent the Football Association of Singapore in AFC continental competitions. The qualification spot is given to the next best-placed local club in the league if a foreign club wins any of the two competitions.

Past champions edit

The league has seen five clubs win the title since its inception. Warriors FC (formerly Singapore Armed Forces FC) hold the most titles at nine. In 2010, Étoile FC became the first foreign side to win the competition.[9]

Season Winners Runners-up
1996* Geylang United Singapore Armed Forces
1997 Singapore Armed Forces Tiong Bahru United
1998 Singapore Armed Forces (2) Tanjong Pagar United
1999 Home United Singapore Armed Forces
2000 Singapore Armed Forces (3) Tanjong Pagar United
2001 Geylang United (2) Singapore Armed Forces
2002 Singapore Armed Forces (4) Home United
2003 Home United (2) Geylang United
2004 Tampines Rovers Home United
2005 Tampines Rovers (2) Singapore Armed Forces
2006 Singapore Armed Forces (5) Tampines Rovers
2007 Singapore Armed Forces (6) Home United
2008 Singapore Armed Forces (7) Super Reds
2009 Singapore Armed Forces (8) Tampines Rovers
2010 Étoile Tampines Rovers
2011 Tampines Rovers (3) Home United
2012 Tampines Rovers (4) DPMM FC
2013 Tampines Rovers (5) Home United
2014 Warriors FC (9) DPMM FC
2015 DPMM FC Tampines Rovers
2016 Albirex Niigata (S) Tampines Rovers
2017 Albirex Niigata (S) (2) Tampines Rovers
2018 Albirex Niigata (S) (3)[10] Home United
2019 DPMM FC (2) Tampines Rovers
2020 Albirex Niigata (S)[11] (4) Tampines Rovers
2021 Lion City Sailors (3) Albirex Niigata (S)
2022 Albirex Niigata (S) (5) Lion City Sailors
2023 Albirex Niigata (S) (6) Lion City Sailors

* The inaugural season of the S.League was split into two series. The winners of each series completed in a championship playoff in which Geylang United defeated Singapore Armed Forces to claim the first S.League title.

Performance by clubs edit

Club Winners Runners-up Winning years
Warriors FC
1997, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2014
Albirex Niigata (S)
2016, 2017, 2018, 2020, 2022, 2023
Tampines Rovers
2004, 2005, 2011, 2012, 2013
Lion City Sailors
1999, 2003, 2021
2015, 2019
Geylang International
1996, 2001
Tanjong Pagar United
Super Reds

Awards edit

Type of awards in the Singapore Premier League edit

  • Player of the Year
  • Young Player of the Year
  • Coach of the Year
  • Team of the Year
  • Goal of the Year
  • Top Scorer
  • Golden Glove
  • Fair Play Award
  • People's Choice Award
  • Dollah Kassim Award

Special awards edit

100 S.League goals edit

Season Name Club
2002   Mirko Grabovac Singapore Armed Forces
2003   Indra Sahdan Daud Home United
2003   Aleksandar Đurić Geylang United
2004   Egmar Goncalves Home United
2005   Noh Alam Shah Tampines Rovers
2005   Peres De Oliveira Home United
2007   Agu Casmir Gombak United
2008   Park Tae-Won[12] Woodlands Wellington
2009   Ludovick Takam Home United
2010   Mohd Noor Ali[13] Woodlands Wellington
2014   Qiu Li[14] Balestier Khalsa
2020   Jordan Webb Tampines Rovers

200 S.League goals edit

Season Name Club
2005   Mirko Grabovac Tampines Rovers
2007   Aleksandar Đurić Singapore Armed Forces

300 goals edit

Season Name Club
2010   Aleksandar Đurić Tampines Rovers

All-time league table edit

The all-time Singapore Premier League table is a cumulative record of all match results, points and goals of every team that has played in the league since its inception in 1996. The table that follows is accurate as of the end of the 2023 season. Teams in bold are part of the 2023 season.

No. of
W (PK)[c] D
1 Tampines Rovers 28 720 389 (3) 145 183 1,425 909 +516 1,318
2 Warriors a 24 654 371 (2) 121 160 1,407 865 +542 1,238
3 Home United 24 654 357 (2) 123 172 1,309 853 +456 1,198
4 Geylang International a 28 720 294 (3) 145 289 1,131 1,127 +4 1,043
5 Albirex Niigata (S) 20 534 275 118 139 1,022 735 +287 985
6 Balestier Khalsa 28 720 211 (2) 158 371 994 1,396 −402 756
7 Woodlands Wellington c 19 531 167 (4) 120 240 743 930 −187 623
8 Young Lions 19 567 141 (1) 109 316 683 1,123 −440 529
9 Tanjong Pagar United 15 404 136 (2) 85 172 583 692 −109 492
10 Gombak United 12 346 114 88 144 462 528 −66 432
11 Hougang United f 13 321 113 65 143 508 571 −63 379
12 DPMM d 9 225 103 48 74 414 333 +81 357
13 Jurong FC 7 179 70 (7) 29 73 261 274 −13 253
14 Sembawang Rangers 8 207 53 (5) 47 102 256 409 −149 216
15 Lion City Sailors g 4 87 57 15 15 273 117 +156 186
16 Super Reds 3 96 41 20 35 144 146 −2 143
17 Étoile f 2 66 42 11 13 119 59 +60 132
18 Clementi Khalsa 4 110 22 29 59 150 261 −111 95
19 Sinchi b 3 87 22 (6) 13 46 109 167 −58 88
20 Harimau Muda B 3 81 23 14 44 90 150 −60 83
21 Harimau Muda A 1 24 13 3 8 37 23 +14 42
22 Beijing Guoan Talent e 1 33 10 6 17 30 49 −19 31
23 Liaoning Guangyuan 1 33 8 5 20 33 63 −30 29
24 Sporting Afrique (Africa) 1 30 5 9 26 36 59 −23 24
25 Dalian Shide Siwu 1 33 5 7 21 26 75 −55 22
26 Paya Lebar Punggol 1 27 1 1 25 23 78 −55 4

Records and statistics edit

Team records edit

Player records edit

Manager records edit

See also edit

Notes edit

  1. ^ Formerly known as the Singapore Armed Forces Football Club (SAFFC).
  2. ^ Formerly known as Home United Football Club (HUFC).
  3. ^ The 2003 edition of the S.League saw the introduction of penalty shootouts if a match ended a draw. Shootout winners were awarded an extra point on top of the draw.

References edit

  1. ^ Joe Dorai (17 January 1995). "Malaysian states want 15 per cent levy to play at Kallang". The Straits Times. p. 31.
  2. ^ "Geylang wins S-League's Championship match". The Straits Times. 10 November 1996.
  3. ^ "Singapore's LionsXII booted out of Malaysia football". TodayOnline. 25 November 2015. Archived from the original on 24 September 2022. Retrieved 1 May 2016.
  4. ^ a b c d Osman, Shamir (4 November 2014). "Only 10 teams in S.League next year". The New Paper. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 6 November 2014.
  5. ^ Low, Lin Fhoong (6 November 2014). "Changes will make S-League 'stronger, more competitive'". Today. Archived from the original on 5 November 2014. Retrieved 6 November 2014.
  6. ^ a b c Low, Lin Fhoong (5 November 2014). "Uncertainty over S-League's changes for 2015". Today. Archived from the original on 5 November 2014. Retrieved 5 November 2014.
  7. ^ Phua, Emmanuel (24 November 2014). "Players ambivalent about S-League U-turn". Today. Archived from the original on 24 November 2014. Retrieved 24 November 2014.
  8. ^ Football: Goodbye S-League, welcome Singapore Premier League Archived 4 July 2019 at the Wayback Machine The Straits Times, 21 March 2018
  9. ^ "S.League overview". S.League. Archived from the original on 22 August 2013. Retrieved 6 March 2014.
  10. ^ "Albirex wrap up Singapore Premier League title with three months to go - Channel NewsAsia". 23 July 2018. Archived from the original on 23 July 2018. Retrieved 18 October 2022.
  11. ^ "Albirex Niigata FC (S) are 2020 AIA Singapore Premier League champions - Football Association of Singapore". Archived from the original on 19 January 2021. Retrieved 23 February 2021.
  12. ^ " – Amri Takes on Big Brother Role at Young Lions". Archived from the original on 20 August 2017. Retrieved 19 August 2017.
  13. ^ "100 Goals Award: Mohd Noor Ali – The ever smiling joker of the pack". Archived from the original on 28 July 2017. Retrieved 19 August 2017.
  14. ^ "Awards night signals end of 2014 S.League season". S.League. 7 November 2014. Archived from the original on 29 November 2014. Retrieved 18 November 2014.

External links edit