Friday, August 23, 2013 - 16:24
The issue could be related to anything from safety and security to public amenities and the transport system. When it is a hot topic, a great deal is said and written about it, but whether a solution is found is a mystery.
Over the last two weeks, the woeful condition of fields in stadiums around the country raised public outcry. This came after Barcelona FC refused to play at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil because of the poor ground. The match was moved to Shah Alam Stadium at the eleventh hour.
In this country, badly maintained football fields are nothing new. No one is bothered.
Every year, the FA of Malaysia visits the various stadiums before the M-League begins to inspect and approve the venues for the competition.
More often than not, most of the venues are given the nod, but then we will have coaches, managers and players complaining of poor playing conditions when the league starts.
In the last two seasons, only the Kuala Lumpur Football Stadium in Bandar Tun Razak was not approved because of its deplorable state.
It is worth noting here that the Johor FA, under the leadership of Crown Prince Tunku Ismail Idris, refurbished the Larkin Stadium, which is now said to be comparable to the stadiums in Europe.
The question is, has the FA of Malaysia been compromising on the standard of pitches so that the League could progress? It is not just the stadiums that are falling apart. Most of the sports complexes and public playing fields around the country are in shambles too.
But when the matter on playing fields is brought up, everyone passes the buck. The sports associations will say the stadiums do not belong to them and so the responsibility of maintaining them is not theirs. Normally, this is the job of the respective municipalities or the stadium boards, but these people will say they do not have enough funds for maintenance.
Then, we have local councils that withdraw allocations for maintenance or renovation because the stadiums are managed by the sports associations.
Maintenance should start from the very day approval is given to build new stadiums, but this is not the case. It is left to the stadium managers, which more often than not run into problems because their budgets do not permit it.
Then we have states building stadiums and complexes for international or local games like the Malaysia Games.
There is a big budget for such events and every sports association clamours for a venue.
We have a swimming pool complex in the middle of a padi field in Gunung Keriang, Kedah, and a football stadium in the middle of a plantation in Batu Kawan, Penang.
As soon as the related games were over, the swimming pool and the stadium became white elephants and began to deteriorate because they were hardly used.
These are just two examples and I am sure many other such sports facilities are in the same boat.
Then, there are stadiums and complexes where the artificial turf is worn out or torn and not resurfaced, not to mention public and school fields that are in a sorry state.
Football development programmes face the same fate.
For example, the 1Malaysia Cardiff City junior league, which is held on the Rubber Research Institute premises in Sungai Buloh, is played on poor grounds.
Some of the fields the matches are played on look barren and dangerous. How then can we expect to develop the skills of these young players? Maybe the stadium managers should take their cue from Australia and their multipurpose stadium built for the 2000 Sydney Olympics, which I covered.
The stadium was originally built to temporarily hold 110,000 spectators, making it the largest Olympic stadium ever built then as well as the largest in Australia. But in 2003, reconfiguration work was completed to shorten the north and south wings and install movable seating. These changes reduced the capacity to 83,500 for a rectangular field and 82,500 for an oval field.
The stadium is sustained through sponsorship. It lacked a naming rights sponsor in its formative years, but in 2002, telecommunications company Telstra acquired the naming rights, resulting in the stadium being named Telstra Stadium.
And on Dec 12, 2007, the Stadium Australia Group announced that the stadium's name was to be changed to ANZ Stadium after concluding a deal with ANZ Bank worth around A$31.5 million (about RM94.35 million) over seven years. This change took effect on Jan 1, 2008.
This stadium is also a tourist attraction with official tours and it has souvenir shops, all of which generate revenue.
Maybe it is time the stadiums in Malaysia were built to meet our needs, corporate sponsorship was sought and innovative ideas were used for these sports facilities to not only be self-sustaining, but also generate revenue.
TONY MARIADASS is consulting sports
editor at The Malay Mail. A former sports
editor of the paper, he has 27 years of
sports writing experience. He can be
reached at firstname.lastname@example.org