Sunday, November 29, 2009

Walking on thin ice

Latest development: Read SS Dhaliwal's Malaysian Sports latest posting here

Malaysian sports is unique, as it is heavily funded by the Government.

Yes, other countries like Britain, Australia, Scotland and many other countries also get Government funding,
but it is basically for facilities, to host events (ie Olympic, Commonwealth Games), training of elite athletes and for community sports.

Training centres with facilities for various sports are setup and national associations of the various sports are given the opportunity to use them as their centre of excellence to train their respective athletes.

But in Malaysia, Government aid is almost from A to Z. The government does not stop at just providing facilities, financial aid to host events and elite training, but they virtually pay athletes to train full time, reward them handsomely for achievements, have back-up squads for various sports under the National Sports Council, hire coaches and consultants, give financial aid for programmes and events organised by the various sports associations, overseas stints and the list goes on.

Indeed Malaysian sports is the envy of other countries.

But only if the returns for all the money spent by the Government was justifiable, it will make sense with all the support.

To make matters worse, athletes and associations take for granted the aid from the Government and have come to think it is their right to get the aid.

The spoon-fed or dole mentality, has certainly done no good for Malaysian sports. In fact, it has bred complacency among athletes and associations. In short, it is the reason for the ills of Malaysian sports.

I am certainly not against Government support towards to sports. I applaud the Government for taking such a keen interest in sports.

However, there has to be accountability and with Malaysia still trying to win their first ever Olympic gold medal, I wonder how much more does the Government need to spend before Malaysia win's that elusive gold medal at the Olympics, world athletics meet or qualify for the soccer or hockey World Cup?

A sum of RM984 million was allocated from the 2008 budget to implement various youth and sports development programmes, including Rakan Muda programmes.

To further encourage sports among Malaysians a sum of RM 217 million was allocated to finance sports-related projects, including maintenance and upgrading of state and community sports complexes and facilities.

The State-of-the-art sports facilities of Malaysia - National Stadium Complex, Shah Alam Stadium and Sepang F1 Racing Circuit among them.

In England, Sport England is focused on the creation of a world-leading community sport system.

Sports England invest National Lottery and Exchequer funding in organisations and projects that will grow and sustain participation in grassroots sports and create opportunities for people to excel as their chosen sport.

Sport England also work in partnership with UK sport, which has responsibility for elite success, and the Youth Trust Fund, which is focused on PE and school sport.

Sport England has set specific and measurable targets to achieve by 2012/13:

* One million people doing more sport
* A 25% reduction in the number of 16 to 18 year-old who drop out at least five key sports.
*Improved talent development systems in at least 25 sports
*A measurable increase in people's satisfaction with their experience of sport
*A major contribution to the delivery of the five hour sports for children and young people

In Australia after a review into government funding of elite sports has ignored Olympic officials' calls for a bigger budget and recommended extra funding to be linked to performance targets.

It also recommended the federal government negotiate with the states for a share of lottery revenues for sports funding and that athletes donate "time and expertise" to local sports as payback for receiving government funding. (Read here)

It was indeed a wise decision by the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to reject out-write some efforts made to bid for the Olympic Games.

It not only saved billions in the bid, but the embarrassment of being just being a good host but without world class athletes to stamp their authority, if ever Malaysia won the bid.

Elsewhere, the Government giving RM1.5 million to the Malaysian Professionals Golfers Association (MPGA) towards starting a golf academy and kick-start at least 12 tournaments next year, is alarming.

Will the Sports Ministry to give funds to other associations if they run into problems with the management of their associations? Is there a trend set here.

Will MPGA now be dictated by the Ministry of Youth and Sports?

And the recent political interference to oust the incumbent Perak FA president, who is from a different political party and money being paid to settle players' salaries arrears by individuals without the endorsement of the Perak FA to the FA of Malaysia, is also alarming.

With political and government involvement in sports, they could well be treading a thin line between assistance and interference.

International Olympic Council and FIFA have strict rules about political and government interferences and the last thing Malaysian sports need is to be hauled up by the international authorities.

While IOC and International bodies for respective sports welcome government assistance to promote sports, they are very particular of governments or political interference in dictating the sports organisations on how to run their associations or placing government or political personnel in the associations to monitor or run the association.

Malaysian sports is indeed enjoying the Government support and it has benefited the sports tremendously, but they have to take a cautious stand on their involvement and the manner they support.

At the same time, it is about time for associations to try and stand on their own two feet with a professional setup and manage their associations like a business to get the desired results in the respective sports.

For the love of Malaysian sports, let us all get our act right and put ourselves on the right path to excellence.

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