Sunday, August 9, 2009

Do not rest on your laurels

Many sports have suffered the consequence of resting on their laurels and one sport currently enjoying the "good times" could suffer the same, if not immediately addressed.

It is no surprise sports like football, hockey and athletics are today paying the price for resting on their laurels and neglecting development.

One sport which could suffer the same fate is squash.

This was underlined by Tunku Tan Sri Imran, the Olympic Council of Malaysia and founding chairman of SportExcel (Foundation for Malaysian Sporting Excellence).

Tunku Imran was actually giving examples from his own personal experience of how private enterprise has involved itself in Sports Development in Malaysia when he was speaking on Optimising Private Enterprise in Sports Development at the Sports Industry Convention (KISMAS) on Saturday.

He had cited SportExcel which has evolved around sponsors from private sectors funding to become a key player in development of sports. He also mentioned Cricket where through personalities involved in the sports they have built international arenas for the sport.

He also touched on a "new wave" - getting domestic sport on television - which is in the offing through the assistance of Astro. This he said is vital for nurturing a Sports Culture where the private sector is playing a major role.

But what caught my attention was when Tunku Imran spoke about squash, where he was passionately involved - both as a player and administrator.

He bluntly put it that squash which is enjoying a high profile through the likes of Datuk Nicol David, Mohd Azlan Iskandar and Ong Beng Hee, could well suffer the fate it had underwent in the late 80s.

Then we had the likes of Mej S. Maniam,Jerry Loo, Alvin Lau, Patrick Gurubathan, Lionel Lau, Muhaimi Mustapha, Chris Chan, Yeoh Lam Jit, Richard Hashim and Gerald Monterio, to name a few.

Singapore too suffered the same fate when they failed to pay attention to development during their era of Zainal Abidin and Peter Hill when they were best in South East Asia and second only to Pakistan in Asia.

Squash Racquet Association of Malaysia (SRAM) was founded in 1972 when there were 23 courts mainly belonging to clubs. By 1980 there were over 400 courts and today there is easily about 1,000 courts.
An article I did in The Malay Mail in December 1981 on how not many associations can match the progress of SRAM - having a place of their own in less than a decade. They had an administration block at the Subang Squash Centre that boasted of 20 courts. This was made possible through working with the private sector. The vision of Tunku Imran, then president and brainchild of architect and SRAM committee member Peter Lim.

That's how big squash as grown with heavy investment in squash centres, in shopping malls and people making good returns.

But somehow, Tunku Imran feels that currently, despite squash enjoying a high profile status, enough is not done for the game.

He pointed out that the KL squash league which used to have 94 teams has now dwindled, and the game needsn new strategies to market and reposition themselves.

He bluntly put it that SRAM needs to broaden its base again and if they do not, they willl not have any more World Champions down the line.

It is a fact the the gap between the likes of Nicole (World No 1), Azlan (No 16), Ong (No 21) and the rest of Malaysian players is indeed wide.

But in all fairness to SRAM, they have a good sponsor, have several development programmes in place, including organising the SportsExel circuits and have their visions all charted out. (checkout SRAM's website). They even have a strategic plan from 2008 - 2013 in place.

However, for Tunku Imran to express his conern, obvioulsy he still sees something not in place and that needs to be addressed. Hopefully, SRAM will take note and address the situation.

I cannot imagine the state of other national sports associations. If SRAM, who seem to been working hard and is a well established and organised association, is being warned of the pitfall, I hate to even think of the many other associations who have nothing going for them and development is a foreign word to them.

Indeed, a timely wake up call for all sports associations and they had better pay heed to it immediately. Otherwise, just be prepared to sink further into the doldrums.

1 comment:

Allan said...

Dear Tony,

Thanks for the insight of Tunku's thoughts. My readers will definitely enjoy it.