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Behind Sea Group's investment in Singapore football

Forrest Li, the founder, chairman and group chief executive of Sea, who will serve as chairman of the club, is a football fan.

Having bought Singapore Premier League (SPL) club Lion City Sailors (formerly known as Home United) for an undisclosed sum, Sea Group believes its latest acquisition represents a way for the company to give back to communities.

Sea feels that as a Singaporean company, it is committed to giving back by looking at ways for the company to contribute to enhancing its community in Singapore. Football was a natural avenue, given the passion for the game in Singapore and Sea team’s own love of football.

Forrest Li, the founder, chairman and group chief executive of Sea, who will serve as chairman of the club, is known to be a big football fan.

“Our goal is to reignite the passion for local football and reinvigorate the league in the process. We want to start by focusing on initiatives that will make games more accessible and foster a fun and engaging fan experience,” a Sea spokesperson tells The Drum.

“In the season ahead, we will create more ways to bring back the passion to the stands, get more people to the games, and to follow the SPL.”

Sea is no stranger to Asian football. In the 2016 season, the company’s gaming arm Garena sponsored the Young Lions football club, while its e-commerce arm Shopee is a currently a league sponsor of the Indonesian Liga 1.

According to the spokesperson, a primary reason behind its involvement in Singapore football four years ago was to develop the local football scene further, and key learning from that is the work on that front never stops; it’s always ongoing.

Now, assuming ownership of a club provides Sea with the opportunity to deepen its engagement with fans and the local communities.

“We aim to ignite that spark for local football and set an example by building a club that can be successful on the field, and successful and sustainable off the field,” explains the spokesperson.

“We recognise that sport can act as a powerful avenue to engage local communities and bring together people of all ages and backgrounds as we unite behind a shared passion. We believe in the massive potential of football in Singapore and that the country deserves to have a world-class football ecosystem and world-class teams. Our goal is for Lion City Sailors to represent our country with pride on the world stage.”

The spokesperson continues: “The club has always had a great reputation for the standard of management and corporate governance - not just in Singapore but across Asia. We intend to build on these foundations and develop a club that Singaporeans can be proud of and stand behind.”

Until Sea’s involvement, Singapore’s local football scene has been in the doldrums as Singapore football clubs lacked corporate involvement with one of the key reasons being empty stadiums and a lack of interest from the majority of the population.

Sea recognises that it could help the local game in Singapore by getting more involved, bringing some of the business acumen and entrepreneurial spirit. By doing so, it aims to help local football thrive, and reiterates it believe this is a good thing for its communities.

Through the club, Sea hopes to create opportunities for local kids to follow their footballing dreams, for passionate football fans to enjoy the thrill of watching their local heroes succeed, and for family and friends to simply get together and enjoy a game.

“We want to set an example for Singapore football by building a club that can be successful on the field, and successful and sustainable off the field,” explains the spokesperson.

“On the field, we are confident that head coach Aurelio Vidmar can lead the club’s effort towards success. Off the field, it is ultimately about bringing back the passion to the stands, getting more people to the games and following the Singapore Premier League, as well as creating more interest.”

Adds the spokesperson: “An area of focus for us is to make games more accessible and foster a fun and engaging fan experience. We want to get football fans excited again and create positive energy among the local community. If we can achieve that, more commercial interest and sponsors will naturally follow.”

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