This letter by regular contributor Lee Seck Kay (whose letters I do enjoy reading a lot because they focus mainly on Singapore sport) appeared in the Online Forum of The Straits Times today. Which, I felt, was a pity because it should have ben published in print.
It made some very good points about how national sports associations should come under the aegis of the Singapore Sports Council instead of being private registered societies, that accept public funding, yet need not beholden to the public when it comes to their ways of running their sport in Singapore.
However, there is a possible problem about the suggestion to get NSAs to come under the SSC’s rule. I am not sure if world governing bodies allow their member national sports associations to be government bodies, instead of private registered societies.
Remember how Fifa recently suspended the Brunei football association because of governmental interference in its affairs? That resulted in Brunei club DPMM being forced to withdraw from the S-League with just five games left to play.
And Singapore Athletic Association president Loh Lin Kok recently warned the SSC that any breakaway body that it wants to form to counter or replace the SAA as the governing body of Singapore athletics would get into serious trouble with the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).
But at the end of the day, I can see where Lee Seck Kay is coming from.
All we want is the assurance or comforting illusion that the pubic money – our money – that is being poured into NSAs as their annual funding be properly spent.
In other words, the money should be spent on developing athletes to their fullest potential, instead of propping up incompetent regimes. In other words, all we want are accountability and results.
Here’s the letter by Lee Seck Kay:
National sports bodies should work under Sports Council
(The Straits Times, Online Forum, 13 Jan 2010)
ASSOCIATE Professor Lim Chin Leong’s letter last Saturday, “Systemic weakness in managing NSAs”, hit the nail on the head, in respect of the way sports is promoted in Singapore. Clearly the inherent faults of the system, especially the lack of control and accountability, need to be addressed by changes that will allow the national sport associations (NSAs) and the Singapore Sports Council (SSC) to work in synergy towards a common cause.
The suggestion by Prof Lim that all NSAs should come under the aegis of SSC as affiliates is an important first step. Under this arrangement, there would be a cohesive team of experts in the field to take sport to a higher level. No longer will there be the kind of acrimony that recently came to light between SSC and the Singapore Athletic Association (SAA).
The Government has set aside a sizeable sum of taxpayers’ money for the promotion of sport at all levels. We need people in both SSC and the NSAs who can be entrusted to spend this money responsibly in pursuit of our sporting goals. As the spat between SSC and SAA revealed, we seem to have another weakness here.
For SSC to assist the NSAs financially and professionally, its staff must have at least a working knowledge of each sport and the fundamentals of sport and fund management. The same goes for the NSAs, particularly in the business end of sport promotion – event management, talent identification and coaching.
Sporting icons such as Dr Ben Tan (sailing) and Ang Peng Siong (swimming) are making enormous contributions to their respective sports. We need more past champions to step forward to help boost our quest for sporting excellence; NSAs would be so much the poorer without them.
There is also the need to determine the suitability of the NSAs’ own affiliates. It is ludicrous to have affiliates with voting rights that cannot contribute significantly to the sport; their voting can sometimes result in the overstaying of weak leadership, much to the detriment of the sport.
Lastly, since NSAs are largely run by volunteers for “the love of it”, perhaps we can consider some kind of honorarium for their time and dedication, including, as suggested by Prof Lim, handsome bonuses in recognition of their specific achievements in world meets, SEA Games, Asian Games and the Olympics.
Lee Seck Kay
Yours in sport
Singapore Sports Fan