Friday, August 26, 2005

BINDING ATHLETES TO THEIR WORD (26/05/2005 - The Malay Mail)

Publication : MM
Date : 26/08/2005

THERE is an old saying about journalism: "Once you take up the career,
time no longer belongs to you".
I believe this should also apply to national athletes because they are
representing the country and with honour and pride at stake, total
commitment is expected of them.
Gone are the days when sports was a part-time pursuit.
With sports having turned professional, and becoming more competitive,
technical and scientific, total discipline and dedication are among the
prerequisites to be among the elite.
In tandem with this, it is indeed timely the Ministry of Sports and
National Sports Council (NSC) are in the final stages of drawing up the
"athletes contract", to be signed by all national athletes on a yearly
basis, but subject to review during the said period.
The contract will be a tri-party deal among NSC, the respective
National Sports Association (NSA) and the athlete or parent/guardian if
he/she is below 18 years old.
An athletes' briefing session was held on Aug 13, with all available
elite athletes from the 140-odd squad for next year's Doha Asian Games
and Melbourne Commonwealth Games (AsiaComm) to discuss the terms and
conditions of the contract. Coaches and officials were also present.
A briefing with all NSA representatives was held on Aug 18 to discuss
the same subject.
The representatives were given a week to submit their feedback and
Included in the final signing of the contracts will be athletes from
the Special Project, which could see the number swell to more than 500.
With the Government spending millions of ringgit on athletes and
associations, to see sports reach new heights in the country, it is only
fair a firm obligation is obtained from the athletes and NSAs.
The "athletes contract" is said to be based on the 1998 Commonwealth
Games, Jaya '98 athletes contract.
Also incorporated will be elements of the Western Australian Institute
of Sport Athletes agreement and samples from other countries.
The new contract was drawn up in collaboration with the outgoing and
incoming Sports Advisory Panel (including Olympic Council of Malaysia
representatives), management division of NSC, International Preparation
Division of NSC and Special Project AsiaComm 2006.
The legal officer from the Ministry of Sports and a representative from
the Sports Commissioner's office also attended all the six meetings over
the last two months to draw up the draft and fine-tune the contract.
Essentially, the contract sets out "athletes' responsibilities, duties
and obligations" - which will form the basis of the Malaysian National
Athletes' Code of Conduct.
The responsibilities and obligations are in line with international
practices in elite sports (such as training expectations, discipline
before, during and after competitions, maintaining acceptable academic
standards, maintaining high levels of health and fitness, required
assistance in development of their sports and so on).
The other essential feature is said to be the "new package" offered by
All athletes will also receive an increase in allowances and benefits
due to them being shouldered with more responsibilities and duties.
The exact increase in allowances and benefits has yet to be finalised
pending approval from the NSC board.
The packages will be depend on performances and achievements (for
instance, elite athletes in AsiaComm 2006 will receive more than the
Gemilang 2006 or junior squad).
Therefore, incentives will spur athletes to maintain their positions
and constantly improve their performances.
The contracts will also ensure there are provisions for injuries and
insurance protection.
Basically, the contract works both ways.
While the contract ensures athletes give their best in terms of
training and performance, it will will also ensure they are not exploited
and are guaranteed their rights.
But there is bound to be resentment from athletes and NSAs because no
one likes to be tied down by contractual obligations.
However, that is the name of the game in excellence sports and, for
this matter, in any undertaking where someone else is financing the
The athletes have to come to terms with the fact that returns are
expected from them whenever money is spent on them.
If they are not prepared to toe the line, then it is best they opt out
and give up their places to more deserving athletes who are serious about
The bottomline is that athletes can forget about getting a free ride in
sports at the tax-payers' expense.
There has to be accountability, and the athletes have to be held
In fact, a clause should be added to the contract that if athletes want
to terminate their contracts, they must give at least a year's notice.
In the past, there have been many cases where athletes decided to quit
the moment they won medals and received monetary rewards.
NSC have to get the maximum from athletes after spending so much money
on them and a contract will ensure the athletes fulfil their obligations.
The lack of athletes' discipline has been a bone of contention from
time to time and with a contract, necessary action can be taken and maybe
even compel the athletes to repay the investment.
And speaking about discipline, the Sabah FA (SFA) must be commended for
taking a stern stand on the indiscipline of their five players who were
caught red-handed consuming alcohol in the wee hours of the morning when
they were supposed to depart for a crucial Malaysia Cup match.
Maybe it was because SFA disciplinary chairman Bakri Zinin is Deputy
State Police Commissioner 1, that the five were sacked and banned from
playing in the M-League for one year with immediate effect.
But Bakri was merely meting out the punishment to suit the offence
In fact, it is hoped other State FAs follow suit with similar cases
instead of closing an eye, which prevails in many States.
It is about time all sports associations take a tough stance with their
athletes and enforce strict discipline.
This is because for far too long, Malaysian athletes have been having
an easy life where they somewhat adopt a lackadaisical attitude towards
If Malaysian sports wants to see excellence, strict discipline has to
be the order of the day.

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