Young Lions sign blockbuster S$4 million deal with Garena in S.League
Young Lions have agreed to a two-year deal worth up to S$4 million with new sponsors, Garena, in the S.League.
The sponsorship is the biggest ever for Singapore club since the S.League's inception in 1996 and will see Garena fork out S$2 million in cash over two years, with a further S$2 million going into promotion and development of the team.
FAS President Zainudin Nordin says he is delighted with the record deal which will see the side known as the Garena Young Lions for the 2016 season onwards. He hopes it will be a launchpad for more companies to come out and support the S.League.
"Resources have always been a key constraint faced by the FAS," he said. "This record deal represents a great vote of confidence for our programmes, and for that, we would like to thank Garena. The money will be spent wisely on the development of our most promising young talents, and to build the next generation of national team players.
"We truly hope more corporate partners will come on board to support us and support Singapore football, to ensure that the future of our local football scene burns even brighter."
Fronted by Founder and Group Chief Executive Officer, Forrest Li, Garena is Southeast Asia's largest internet and mobile platform company.
"As a young company that is founded in Singapore, Garena has a deep sense of national pride," Li said at Tuesday's announcement. "The Young Lions' sponsorship will allow us to actively contribute to the local professional football scene and create opportunities for young athletes to pursue their dreams."
As to why Garena decided to sponsor Young Lions ahead of the other eight S.League clubs, which include giants like Tampines Rovers and Warriors FC, Li pointed to the similarity to his own company.
"The Young Lions are a natural choice for us as they embody teamwork, creativity and the pursuit of excellence -- qualities that Garena values both on the field and in the workplace," he said.
"We are delighted to extend our support to help cultivate an exceptional team that all Singaporeans can be proud of and foster a stronger sports ecosystem comprising the government, the Football Association of Singapore (FAS), businesses and the broader community."
This season will see the youngest ever squad represent the Young Lions, with the U23 format changed to an U21 youth team, comprising of rising stars like Ammirul Emmran, Ammirul Adli and Jonathan Tan.
While the youngsters learn their craft in the competitive S.league, they will be guided by two senior players in the former LionsXII duo of Khairul Amri and Firdaus Kasman.
Amri, who is arguably Singapore's top striker on the international stage, will lead the attack while Firdaus will be the midfield lynchpin of the side.
Despite the other eight teams strengthening their squads, like Tampines who have brought in former Arsenal and Liverpool winger Jermaine Pennant, Garena boss Li is committed in his support for his newly adopted young cubs.
"This project is about giving back to the Singapore community that Garena belongs to. We have not and will not measure it based on KPIs. It doesn't matter if the team wins the S.League championship but if at the end of two years, we see some of these young players develop into professional football stars that play for Singapore, that will be the success we want to see."
Garena Young Lions will kick off their season with a home game against Balestier Khalsa on Feb. 14.