SINGAPORE — Singapore Premier League club Warriors Football Club was fined $26,000 on Tuesday (11 January) after it pleaded guilty to failing to pay six employees their salaries.
Separately, the club also admitted that it had failed to notify the Police Licensing & Regulatory Department of the employment of four security officers for a 2016 match it organised against Albirex Niigata Singapore FC at Jalan Besar Stadium.
In all, the club pleaded guilty to one count under the Private Security Industry Act and six counts under the Employment Act.
Another three charges under the Private Security Industry Act, and 124 charges under the Employment Act for failing to pay its employees, were taken into consideration for its sentencing.
It will begin paying the fine in instalments from end-January.
Financial difficulties from 2018
According to the club’s lawyer Azri Imran Tan, the club began encountering financial difficulties in September 2018, where it was reported that it had defaulted on paying the salaries of some players and staff.
The issues escalated in 2019, and the Ministry of Manpower began investigating the possible Employment Act contraventions upon receiving information.
The club, which has won the S-League (SPL’s previous name) a record nine times, failed to pay a total of 35 employees more than $300,000 in salaries. The employees consist of staff and players, including sports trainers, coaches and executives.
One player was French striker Jonathan Behe, who had not been paid $20,253.85 from September to November 2019. The other players were Ignatius Ang Yu Heng, who was not paid $15,992.50; Muhammad Fadhil Noh, who was not paid $15,925; Poh Yi Feng, who was not paid $12,794; and Yeo Hai Ngee, who was not paid $11,995.
A coach, Lee Bee Seng, was not paid $33,238.80 from June to December 2019.
The employees were under contracts of service but Warriors failed to pay them their total salaries due upon completion of their contracts. Warriors has since made full restitution to the six employees.
Match against Albirex Niigata
For its 18 March 2016 match against Albirex Niigata Singapore FC at Jalan Besar Stadium, Warriors employed four security officers to conduct security bag checks at the entrance to the Jalan Besar Stadium.
However, the club failed to notify licensing officers of their employment. Warriors only notified S-League of its employment of the officers, in the mistaken belief that this was sufficient for legal purposes.
Tan said that the club was unable to pay the fines sought due to financial issues, which have worsened upon the onset of COVID-19 and other material events. Expected revenue had not been met, while the club has failed to find a suitable location or to obtain a license for gaming, formerly its main source of revenue.
After it was charged in November 2019, the club sought to remedy the situation by paying $150,000 to around half of its football squad to settle arrears due. The monies were obtained from interest free loans and financial contributions from members of the club’s management committee. However, the situation did not improve.
The club missed the 2020 and 2021 Singapore Premier League seasons. It has since attempted to clear its debt by restructuring, and has reached agreements with the authorities on repayment of monies owed to various authorities, including Central Provident Fund Board and the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore.
Tan added, “What the club hopes to impress upon this honourable court today, however, is that the outcome of today’s proceedings affects the future of the Club and the football community in Singapore as a whole. The club is far more than a corporate entity, it is an institution of Singapore football and hopes to continue being a bastion of local football in the years to come.”
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