Players in Singapore’s S.League, one of the region’s premier competitions, have been ordered to take an immediate 20 percent pay cut with the possibility of further cutbacks next season, the source said.

He was speaking during the Southeast Asian Tiger Cup soccer tournament which opened in Vietnam on Wednesday.

The 11-day tournament comprises Laos, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

“The players have come here and are very demoralised about it. It seems like the (Singapore) league is professional in name only,” the source said.

S.League officials were not immediately available for comment.

The S.League, which kicked off three years ago after Singapore stopped playing in Malaysia’s professional league, already operates a strict salary cap system for players and clubs.

Salaries for top players are capped at around S$5,000 ($2,820) per month.

Now the competition could face the prospect of foreign players abandoning the country for more lucrative leagues, the source said.

Locals may now be forced to take on extra employment to supplement incomes, making them semi-professional sportsmen.

Singapore withdrew from Malaysia’s M.League four years ago amid accusations the island state was not doing enough to combat match-rigging and illegal gambling.

The M.League had been rocked by a major match-fixing scandal which resulted in numerous players and officials being banned from the game for life.

A year after leaving the Malaysian league, Singapore’s S.League, styled on the professional set-up in Japan, started with strong government backing and a series of controls to stop clubs over-extending themselves financially.

But the league has failed to capture the imagination of fans. Attendance at matches has fallen, with some games attracting less than 1,000 spectators.
It is a far cry from the glory days when more than 50,000 people regularly flocked to see Singapore during the 1994 season when they won the M.League and the Malaysia Cup double.