Friday, June 3, 2016

Has austerity drive been ignored?


Have the cost-cutting measures announced by the government earlier this year been seriously observed by the sporting bodies?
All signs point to the contrary. And to make matters worse, money is being spent on things that are unimportant to the fraternity.
The money is for training, medicine, supplements, sports science, coaches or anything related to producing champions, especially for the Rio Olympics or even the SEA Games next year which Malaysia is hosting.
But when the National Sports Institute or Institut Sukan Negara (NSI/ISN), in a hush-hush manner, unveiled a new logo last Friday afternoon in a hall that was enveloped in black cloth for a “night atmosphere”, one begins to wonder.
Is a new logo going to change anything for NSI? What matters is the service it provides the athletes.
The present logo is a registered trademark and though it is not going to cost much to register the new logo, the rebranding exercise certainly will. 
Changes will have to be made to everything - from the letterheads, corporate shirts and T-shirts, standees and logos on NSI ambulances to the NSI logo on the official letters, documents, calling cards and so on of the many sports associations.
Probably, newly appointed NSI CEO Dr Mohd Khairi Zawi and his deputy Ahmad Zawawi Zakaria wanted to start afresh with a new logo that they both designed, and leave their “legacy” behind. But this looks more like a wrong call.
The unveiling of the logo was supposedly a “pot-luck” affair with the staff members having to pay a minimal sum, according to their rank, for the catered food. Those who paid were given the event’s T-shirts.
More surprisingly, the two senior officers had their offices renovated, replacing the carpet with wooden flooring, painting the walls black and installing large mirrors. This seems like a waste of precious funds, especially when the NSI have had their budget cut drastically over the last two years.
Their staff strength has also been reduced, with the termination of the services of many long-serving temporary employees.
It is also learnt that the protein supply for the athletes has been cut because NSI does not have enough funds.
Meanwhile, holding workshops at holiday resorts is also questionable, especially when the cost-cutting measures clearly state that government facilities have to be used for such purposes. Also, the consumption of food and drinks and the use of buntings and banners during conferences, seminars, meetings, courses, workshops and other official functions have to be reduced. Similarly, the use of event management firms and the handing out of door gifts or souvenirs during events.
All these rules are there so that the limited funds made available to NSI are prioritised for the athletes and not frittered away for events that are of no benefit to them.
It will be interesting to see how much is spent on the Malaysia Games (SUKMA) that will be held in Sarawak next month. Are there going to be lavish opening and closing ceremonies?
It is only a tournament for junior athletes and thus should be kept very simple. But that has never been the case for almost all the Games hosted so far.
Malaysian sports seriously needs to cut out all the frills and extravaganza and just stick to its core. Money meant for sports should be used only for sports and its improvement, and not to create a circus.
Without doubt, the money allocated for sports is a huge sum despite the cutbacks but it still cannot be channelled into the wrong areas.
Countries with very much less allocation for sports and do not have the facilities, technology, expertise or science have done way much better than Malaysia.
So, the question that needs to be asked is, where have we gone wrong and how can we address it urgently?
Otherwise, we are going to continue to waste millions with no results that commensurate with the money spent.
It is time for stock-taking and put Malaysian sports on the right path – which is a long shot but nothing ventured, nothing gained!

TONY is a sports
journalist with more than
three decades of experience
and is passionate about
local sports.
He can be reached at
Twitter: @tmariadass​

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