Brunei DPMM change mind about exiting S.League for 2018 season

Brunei DPMM have backed down on their threat to quit the S.League after reports emerged that the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) were ready to relax some of the new restrictions imposed on them.

Last week, the 2015 champions had posted a message on their website, stating that they intended to join Indonesia's Liga 1 next season due to the regulations imposed by the FAS, which require strict quotas on age group and foreign players.

Singapore clubs are required to register at least six under-23 players and eight under-30 players, while the foreign player quota has been reduced from three to two.

Invitee club DPMM felt that such restrictions would harm their ability to be competitive and wanted a review from the FAS.

They have now changed their tune and confirmed their participation in the 2018 S.League, with Brazilian Rene Weber taking over from Scotsman Steve Kean as head coach for 2018.

Reports suggest that the FAS have agreed to lift the restrictions on age groups for DPMM, while they are also considering increasing the foreign player quota from two to four.

This has yet to be confirmed by the FAS, but they did admit that they were in negotiations with the club.

"In view of the announced changes to competition rules, the FAS is in discussions with DPMM on their participation in the 2018 domestic professional league," an FAS spokesman told The Straits Times. "An announcement will be made in due course."

While any decisions perceived to give DPMM preferential treatment are likely to divide opinion, Warriors FC general manager Paul Poh took a sympathetic view of their predicament.

"I can understand that the U23 move is a Singapore development programme and we can't enforce it on Brunei if they feel that their youth system is not ready," Poh told The Straits Times.

"We can work with the number of foreign players that they have been allowed to sign. They have been our partners for so long and we should move to keep them with us."

But not everyone is so understanding, and a former S.League official spoke to the Straits Times anonymously. He felt that inconsistency in the rules would seriously damage the prospects of local clubs, with invitees DPMM and Albirex (S) taking advantage.

"There's one set of rules for local clubs, one for the Young Lions, one for Albirex (S), and another for DPMM -- they are making a mockery of the league," he said.

"The league title will be a two-horse race between Albirex (S) and DPMM because the rules for local clubs will definitely weaken them."

DPMM have featured in the S.League since 2009, winning the title under former Premier League manager Kean in 2015, while also finishing runners-up twice and lifting the League Cup three times.

Ex-Blackburn Rovers' boss Kean left his post at the end of the 2017 campaign in which the club came a disappointing eighth in the league.

They no doubt fear that the new rules could see their standards slipping further after a number of successful years