Singapore-based digital group Sea has assumed full ownership of Singapore Premier League (SPL) club Home United for an undisclosed sum.
As part of the takeover, Sea has renamed the football club to Lion City Sailors and introduced a new kit and squad for the upcoming 2020 SPL season. Forrest Li, the founder, chairman and group chief executive of Sea, will serve as chairman of the club.
Sea, which owns e-commerce platform Shopee and eSports platform Garena, has stressed that 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.
The Sailors was founded in the mid-1940s as Police Sports Association and was renamed as Home United in 1997 to reflect its representation of the Singapore Police Force, the Singapore Ministry of Home Affairs, the Singapore Civil Defence Force and the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority.
It is a two-time SPL winner and has won a record six Singapore Cup trophies.
The new Sailors coaching team will be led by Aurelio Vidmar, a former captain for the Australia national team. He joins after leading Adelaide United to the 2008 AFC Champions League final, becoming the first Australian team to earn this distinction.
The club has also been splashed out the cash to sign new players like Singapore internationals Hassan Sunny, Gabriel Quak, and Shahdan Sulaiman; Japanese defender Kaishu Yamazaki and Australian forward Andy Pengelly.
“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,” said Li.
“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.”
The SPL has gone through troubled times in recent years and rebranded in 2018, but diminishing interest in the league continues as crowd attendance has not improved significantly.
The new season kicks off on 29 February, where the Sailors will take on defending champions Brunei DPMM at the Bishan Stadium.
The Drum previously spoke to AIA, the title sponsor of the SPL, about why it decided to sponsor the league.