Monday, September 9, 2013

Using development to abuse sports


Friday, September 06, 2013 - The Malay Mail

AN overdose of anything is normally bad, but not in the case of sports development.
However, when the mushrooming of events or sports centres in the name of development is not regulated, then it becomes a problem.
Take the sudden fad for holding ‘runs’ in the country. Not a week goes by without one or sometimes several held in the same city or state.
On Nov 11, there will be four races — World Diabetes Day Run, ICE Run, RHB Run and My-Cat Run – in the heart of Kuala Lumpur.
Running is healthy and should be encouraged. But when event managers turn it into a moneymaking venture without following fundamental guidelines like safety and competition rules set by the Malaysian Athletics Federation (MAF), including the use of qualified officials to run the show, the races become hazardous.
Tragedy has already struck with deaths occurring in some races in recent years.
Now with running events spreading like wild—fire, there has to be a controlling body to sanction them to avoid further complications.
Normally, race organisers, besides getting the green light from the Sports Commissioner’s office, have to apply for sanction from their respective state athletics association or the national body if it is an international event.
However, many event organisers do not bother because they have to pay sanction fees ranging from RM3,000 to RM5,000, which eats into their profit.
When they pay the fees, qualified officials are provided to ensure the competition rules and guidelines set by the MAF are adhered to, measure the distance to be run, certify the course, validate the running times and confirm the final results.
But event managers prefer their own set of unqualified officials, do not give certified certificates and, more often than not, claim that it is a ‘Fun Run’.
Besides the international standard marathon, which is a 42km run, there are the 21km half marathons. These are few and normally well organised, among which are the Standard Chartered Marathon, Penang Bridge Run, BSN Night Run and Terengganu Bridge Run.
It is the ‘Fun and Charity Runs’, covering 3km, 5km, 7km or the popular 10km, which are in abundance.

RUN CRAZE: Runs are held every week with huge participation

The marathons attract anything from 20,000 to 40,000 participants while the runs draw 1,000 to 10,000.
Participants of the runs, who pay an entrance fee of RM30 to RM70, are usually happy with a ‘goodie bag’ and a medal.
The organisers just have to get a police permit, which has a clause seeking the venue owner’s written consent for the use of their premises for the race.
There is no requirement from the police for a letter of sanction from the athletics controlling bodies. The police are also required for traffic assistance during the run, but some organisers just use Rela (the paramilitary civil volunteer corps) who have no authority to close roads.
In the meantime, it is learnt that MAF are planning to work closely with the Sports Commissioner, venue owners and the police to ensure that there is proper monitoring of these races before a major mishap occurs.
Of paramount importance is the safety of the participants. At present, they sign an indemnity form to absolve the organisers of any responsibility if there are any incidents.
There is a similar need to regulate the futsal centres and football academies coming up all over the country.
A number of the futsal centres, some of which are located in shop houses, do not have certified artificial turf. Many have deplorable turf, which is dangerous to play on. The problem is these centres just need a permit from the local council to operate.
Many of the football academies, meanwhile, do not have qualified coaches or a proper syllabus for coaching. But they charge exorbitant fees, short-changing the participants.
It is about time the FA of Malaysia or the state FAs look into this and ensure the futsal centres and football academies have been sanctioned before starting operations. The football authorities should continue to monitor these centres and revoke their sanction if they are found to be below par.
Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin has said the National Football Development Programme, which he heads, will be monitoring the football academies.
It is hoped this will become a reality soon. Maybe the Ex-International Football Association can play a role, too.
It is great to see booming interest in the name of sports development, but it is vital that there is proper coordination, certification and checking by the respective authorities to ensure there is quality control and proper records.
TONY MARIADASS is the sports editor
of The Malay Mail. He can be reached at

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