Touch Singapore pivots with success with 4v4 League

April 6, 2021 @ 9:00 UTC

Touch Singapore kept the Touch flame shining brightly in 2020 with a masterful pivot into four aside matches as the island city's government cautiously relaxed its COVID restrictions.

The Singapore Government last December relaxed some of the COVID-19 restriction protocols for team sports. This allowed for sport to be played with a maximum of 8 participants. The innovative leadership at Touch Singapore (TSG) reacted quickly to this change and started a 4 versus 4 competition called the Singlife 4v4 Touch League. 

This competition started in February and will conclude on April 17. There are 148 teams competing in matches that are played on a smaller field with 4 quarters of 6 minutes duration. No substitutions are allowed. The competition has been taking place behind closed doors at the Tanglin Rugby Club with teams required to enter the venue just before their matches and to leave shortly after.

Federation of International Touch (FIT) Secretary General Bill Ker acknowledged the great work of the TSG. “Congratulations to Touch Singapore on your initiative and adaptability,” Bill said. “I am just amazed by this achievement.”

Attracting media interest

One of the exciting dimensions of the Singlife 4v4 Touch League has been the media exposure it has received. Touch Singapore President Chris Hallewell said, “TSG has been actively engaging the Straits Times as the primary media outlet in the region.” The Straits Times has a combined daily print and digital media readership of well over 1 million people in Singapore and the surrounding region. It has so far published 2 feature articles about the Singlife 4v4 Touch League. These articles describe the format of 4v4 Touch and some of the Covid-19 protocols in place. It also quotes some players and officials who emphasize the fun aspect of the matches and how happy they are to be back on the field, despite the physical challenge of playing such a fast-paced sport following the enforced pandemic layoff. 

Chris Hallewell is hoping for more exposure in the Straits Times “We are providing the outlet with weekly updates on the League should they wish to feature Touch further throughout the season. We expect to receive another feature at the end of the League season as a wrap up to conclude the story. We are aiming to gain as much exposure as possible whilst we are able to.”

COVID-19 leads to better access to playing fields

As for some of its ongoing challenges such as lack of readily available playing fields, Chris said this difficulty had been made easier in the short term by the pandemic. “Stadiums and facilities have been underutilised so there have been opportunities for clubs to gain access to facilities they would not typically be able to,” said Chris. However, it does seem that this will be an ongoing challenge due to the small land size of Singapore and a growing population “Whilst Covid has eased some of the immediate pressures, there remains uncertainty over some of the larger field spaces long term, which is a concern for us.” 

Touch Singapore works to gain access to schools

A lack of access to Touch for children in the school sporting curriculum was identified previously as a challenge to the development of Touch. Chris said, “We have been working with a group of educators within the Ministry of Education (MOE) to identify our best method to approach inclusion to the sporting curriculum. It’s not going to be quick or easy to gain traction, so this is an ongoing project.” 

Increasing the number of accredited coaches is also going to be necessary in order to be able to offer Touch widely in schools “Our key area of focus is to develop our coaching community. We are currently very light on accredited coaches but have a vast number of people wanting to get into coaching or go through their accreditations.”

Singapore Government funding greatly appreciated

Touch is a self-funded sport in Singapore that receives no government financial support. However, the COVID- 19 pandemic has led to the TSG receiving some government funding for the first time “The government has been very supportive during these uncertain times. They created a Sports Resilience Package that allowed associations to apply for a funding grant to make up for losses experienced in 2020. We were fortunate to have been approved for the grant and recently received our funding that has in turn allowed TSG to host the first 4TL tournament,” said Chris. 

Singapore Touch is on the ball

Touch in Singapore is emerging from the pandemic shut down with some really encouraging developments. Creative and agile leadership has the players back on the field receiving unprecedented media coverage. The sport has secured some government funding, along with better access to facilities, and is working hard to gain entry for Touch in schools. The Singapore Touch lion has had one eye open during hibernation.