Ceylon Sports Club

The Ceylon Sports Club (CSC) at 101 Balestier Road was established in 1928.1 It was reconstituted from the Lanka Union, which was founded by a group of Ceylonese students in 1920. The club’s main aim was to unite Ceylonese in Singapore and promote sports among them. Cricket was particularly popular while other sports such as hockey, tennis and soccer were also promoted.2 Since the 1920s, the club has produced many outstanding sports teams, as well as several cricket and hockey players of good repute in Malaya and Singapore.3 Although the clubhouse was destroyed during the Japanese Occupation of Singapore (1942–45), it was rebuilt after the war. The clubhouse underwent several renovations over the years, and new services were introduced by the club to attract more members.4

Background
Ceylonese migration to Singapore
The first group of Ceylonese arrived in Singapore, Penang and Malacca after the Straits Settlements became a crown colony in 1867.5 Singapore’s rapidly expanding economy attracted a growing number of immigrants, including the Ceylonese, in the last quarter of the 19th century.6

In 1931, the number of Ceylonese in Singapore totalled 1,645, comprising 1,144 males and 501 females. This is one of the earliest statistics available on the Ceylonese population in Singapore as earlier census reports did not differentiate between Ceylon Tamils and other Tamils. By 1957, the Ceylonese population had more than tripled to 5,426 (the number of females had more than quadrupled to 2,366, while the number of males had more than doubled to 3,060).7

Formation of Lanka Union
The Lanka Union was founded in 1920 by a group of students from Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) who were studying at the King Edward VII College of Medicine in Singapore. These students felt that there was a need for a united Ceylonese body for the promotion of sports, in particular cricket and soccer.8 From the start, the club was open to all Ceylonese, including Burghers, Sinhalese, Tamils and Moors.9

The Lanka Union had no official premises and held their sporting events on the Padang until 1922, when members leased a piece of land at Balestier Plain and erected a single storey wooden structure which served as a clubhouse. The club’s main sports were cricket and soccer, as many Ceylonese were interested in these two sports.10

Establishment of Ceylon Sports Club
After several years, the members decided to dissolve Lanka Union and reconstitute it as the Ceylon Sports Club. On 1 June 1928, the Ceylon Sports Club was registered with 500 members.11

Post-war developments
During the Japanese Occupation, Balestier Plain was used as a vehicle dump and became a “huge mass of twisted metal and wreckage”.12 After the Japanese surrendered in 1945, the military cleared the dump, but it was left to the five clubs (the Indian Association, Young Men’s Christian Association, Ceylon Sports Club, Singapore Clerical and Administrative Workers’ Union, and Malay Football Association) sharing the use of Balestier Plain to re-level and re-turf the premises.13

After the end of World War II in 1945, the Ceylonese community pooled their resources and raised funds to rebuild the clubhouse at the same location.14 By the end of September 1951, more than $48,000 had been raised. On 13 October, the foundation stone for a new $100,000-clubhouse was laid by the then-first Prime Minister of Ceylon, D. S. Senanayake.15 The club’s new permanent premises were officially opened on 13 April 1954 by then British Commissioner Malcolm MacDonald.16 Until then, an attap shed had served as a temporary clubhouse.17

Later developments
The clubhouse underwent upgrading during the 1970s and 1980s. A new tennis court was built around 1986–87 and extensive renovations made to the clubhouse costing just under $200,000. A grand re-opening ceremony was held on 14 November 1987, with then Senior Minister, Prime Minister’s Office, S. Rajaratnam, as the guest-of-honour.181

Presently, the club facilities include a function hall, a sports lounge, a conference room, a jackpot room, a pool table, a futsal court and a canteen.19 The Ceylon Sports Club also expanded its services to reach out to more members during the 1990s with the provision of a new children’s playground, an annual scholarship award, and a mentorship programme. It also introduced a CSC VISA card and set up its own website to make its club news and information more accessible.20

In recent years, the Ceylon Sports Club has had an active role in promoting sports among the younger generation. Some of its initiatives have included mentorship programmes, annual merit scholarships and free coaching clinics (including the use of club facilities) for schools, particularly in cricket and hockey. The club also introduced ladies’ cricket to encourage more families and women to get involved in sports and not just as spectators.21

As an inclusive club, many of its members are not of Ceylonese descent. These members joined the club because of their passion for sports as well as to participate in the social and family activities organised by the club. 22

The less fortunate in the community have not been left out. The club extends invitations to its major functions to the less privileged from various homes. With the aim of serving the larger community, the club has also worked closely with the Singapore Sports Council for the Disabled (now known as Singapore Disability Sports Council) to make the club more user-friendly and accessible to the physically disabled.23



Author
Jeanne Louise Conceicao and Sharon Teng



References
1. Our History – CSC,” Ceylon Sports Club, published 5 July 2016.
2. “Ceylon Sports Club to Mark 70th Anniversary,” Straits Times, 18 September 1998, 55. (From NewspaperSG)
3. Tharman Shanmugaratnam, “Speech by Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Senior Minister of State for Education and Trade & Industry, at the Ceylon Sports Club New Year’s Eve celebrations on Monday, 31 December 2001, 8.15 pm, at 101 Balestier Road,” speech, 31 December 2001, Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts. (National Archives of Singapore document no. 20011231030)
4. “Ceylon Sports Club to Mark 70th Anniversary.”
5. Dhoraisingam S. Samuel, Singapore’s Heritage: Through Places of Historical Interest (Singapore: Dhoraisingam S. Samuel, 2010), 233 (Call no. RSING 959.57 SAM-[HIS]); S. Durai Raja Singam, A Hundred Years of Ceylonese in Malaysia and Singapore (1867–1967) (Petaling Jaya: Raja Singam, 1968), 29. (Call no. RCLOS 959.5 RAJ)
6. C. M. Turnbull, A History of Singapore, 1819–1975 (Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press,1989), 97. (Call no. RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS])
7. Raja Singam, Ceylonese in Malaysia and Singapore, 147.
8. “Ceylon Sports Club to Mark 70th Anniversary”; Tommy Koh et al. eds., Singapore: The Encyclopedia (Singapore: Editions Didier Millet in association with the National Heritage Board, 2006), 89. (Call no. RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS])
9. Tharman, “Speech.”
10. Koh et al., Singapore: The Encyclopedia, 89; “Ceylon Sports Club to Mark 70th Anniversary”; Ceylon Sports Club, Our History – CSC.”
11. Ceylon Sports Club, Our History – CSC.”
12. “I.A. Clubhouse to be Ready by March,” Singapore Free Press, 27 July 1949, 10. (From NewspaperSG)
13. “I.A. Clubhouse to be Ready by March,”
14. “Ceylon Sports Club to Mark 70th Anniversary.”
15. “Senanayake Lays Foundation Stone of Sports Club,” Straits Times, 14 October 1951, 11. (From NewspaperSG)
16. “Page 10 Advertisements Column 5: Ceylon Sports Club,” Straits Times, 8 April 1954, 10 (From NewspaperSG); Ceylon Sports Club, Our History – CSC.”
17. “Ceylon Sports Club to Mark 70th Anniversary”; Ceylon Sports Club, Our History – CSC.”
18. Ceylon Sports Club, Our History – CSC.”
19.Facilities,” Ceylon Sports Club, accessed 9 April 2021.
20. Ceylon Sports Club, Our History – CSC.”
21. Tharman, “Speech.”
22. Tharman, “Speech.”
23. Tharman, “Speech.”

Subject
Architecture and Landscape>>Building Types>>Public Buildings
Sports, recreation and travel>>Sports
Recreation>>Sports
Sports and games
Arts>>Architecture>>Public and commercial buildings
Athletic clubs--Singapore
Public buildings
Ceylon Sports Club (Singapore)