Sea, formerly known as Garena, has assumed full ownership of the football club and renamed it to Lion City Sailors, according to reports. Forrest Li, Sea Group’s CEO, will serve as chairman of the football club.
Home United, now Lion City Sailors, was founded in the mid-1940s as Police Sports Association and was renamed as Home United in 1997. It has won the domestic league twice, with their last title win coming in 2003. The club finished six last season.
In a press release, Li said Sea, a proudly Singaporean company, is playing its 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,” he added.
The newly rebranded team’s coaching staff will be led by Aurelio Vidmar, a former captain for the Australia national team. Vidmar led Adelaide United to the 2008 AFC Champions League Final.
In a separate statement, Lim Kia Tong, president of Football Association of Singapore (FAS), said the deal marks a “watershed moment” in the history of Singapore football, being the first-ever pilot project by FAS to spur privatisation of clubs in the SPL.
“By having Singapore’s professional football clubs move towards a privatisation model, it would not only allow clubs to develop better club and financial management capabilities but also grow the domestic league commercially,” Lim said.
FAS, he added, is delighted to have two home-grown brands on board this project, which is line with the association’s long-term objective when the S.League was rebranded and revamped as the SPL in March 2018.
“Much like how Sea has successfully built great businesses under the leadership of Forrest Li, the FAS has complete confidence in their ability to steer the club to new heights,” the FAS head said.
Founded by Li in 2009, Sea Group began as an online gaming company named Garena, which was later rebranded to reflect is ambition and diversification. It branched out into digital services with Airpay in 2014 and e-commerce with Shopee in 2015.