This report appeared in Saturday’s edition of The Straits Times:
Low to take plunge? (The Straits Times, 29 May 2010)
Outgoing sailing chief mulling approach to contest SAA elections
By Leonard Lim
OUTGOING sailing chief Low Teo Ping is considering running for the Singapore Athletic Association (SAA) presidency.
The news is the latest twist in the tussle for the leadership of one of Singapore’s largest national sports associations, which is set to hold its highly-anticipated election on June 25.
Low’s entry into the fray brings to four the number of people who could be gunning for the presidency: Incumbent Loh Lin Kok, oil trader Tang Weng Fei, Low and prominent criminal lawyer Subhas Anandan.
Ironically, Low is already an adviser to Tang’s team, which was assembled in February to challenge the incumbent. However, the sailing chief is expected to withdraw from that team if he does decide to contest the SAA presidency.
Low, 65, is a well-known name in the sports fraternity. Apart from being the president of SingaporeSailing, he is also president of the Singapore Rugby Union, a council member of the Singapore Sports Council and a Singapore National Olympic Council vice-president. He is a vice-president of the International Sailing Federation as well.
It is understood that the retired banker, who declined comment, has been approached by some in the fraternity to take over from Loh.
In recent months, the SAA chief, a 62-year-old lawyer, has been under pressure from senior sports officials to step down because of athletics’ patchy track record at international competitions.
It is believed that Loh has confided to subordinates that he is happy to step aside if either Low or Anandan, 62, agree to run for office.
A keen observer of the local sports scene remarked: ‘One of the most important tasks for anyone who takes over from Lin Kok now is to mend fences with the Singapore Sports Council, after all the bad press and criticism of the sport recently.
‘Teo Ping, with his positions in SSC and SNOC, along with how he helped build sailing to where it is today, would be a good fit for that.’
Low had announced last week that he would relinquish the sailing presidency on June 28, when SingaporeSailing holds its own AGM.
Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports Dr Vivian Balakrishnan paid tribute to Low then, saying he had always found him to be ‘a reliable source of wise counsel’.
Loh remained coy when asked about Low, but chose to reply with a sailing analogy: ‘If I do hand the reins over, it must be to someone with a steady pair of hands, and someone I trust.’
As for Cuesports president Anandan, who had indicated a month ago that he was considering the position, he would only say: ‘I haven’t decided, I’m waiting for certain things to be decided first.’
Time is running out for the prospective candidates to make up their minds.
The election must be held by the end of next month and the SAA’s 21 affiliates need to be informed 21 days in advance.
Those who wish to contest any of the 13 posts up for grabs – including three vice-presidents, the honorary secretary and honorary treasurer – must express interest at least seven days before the AGM.
The SAA’s management committee will meet on Monday and is expected to endorse Loh’s proposed date of June 25 for the AGM.
Since last December’s South-east Asia Games in Laos, track and field has been in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.
For instance, just two gold medals were garnered out of a total of 45 on offer in Laos. The SAA has also not received any government funding for over a year, after it was tardy in submitting key budget proposals to the SSC.
Loh has held the presidency since 1981, except for a break between 2004 and 2006, when the 56-year-old Tang took over.
Like angkujupi, and I am sure, many others who are taking a keen interest in the coming Singapore Athletic Association elections, I did a double take when I first read the above report about SingaporeSailing president Low Teo Ping being approached to run for office.
But to be honest I am more interested in knowing who were the people who approached him to run than in guessing whether he will eventually agree to do so.
Indeed, who are they? Are they from Loh Lin Kok’s camp? In other words, is he another person that Loh would prefer to take over his seat? Or are these people of some authority in the Singapore sports scene?
After all, they must be pretty powerful and have a certain amount of clout if they can make Low do a rethink about being Tang Weng Fei’s special advisor, and contemplate running for office himself?
And if indeed they are fairly powerful people, then the next question arises: what is so wrong about Tang as a candidate? What is wrong with the team he has assembled? Why do these people not want to see him helming Singapore athletics?
My other concern is that of Low being asked to serve as the head of yet another national sports body.
Don’t get me wrong: I am not casting aspersions on Low.
In fact, I take my hat off to him for the way he has turned Singapore into a world-class sailing nation, and for the way he has brought the Singapore Rugby Union back into the black a few years after it was hit by a $1.2 million embezzlement in 2005.
Almost the stuff of legends.
However, I do feel it speaks volumes of the lack of capable leadership in Singapore sports that a chap who is already the chief of two national sports associations and who also previously served as a key management figure in the Singapore Bowling Federation, is now being asked to ‘save’ Singapore athletics.
And my fear is that if Low does agree to stand for office, and wins, it could deal a blow to the fledging spirit of grassroots volunteerism in Singapore sport.
I mean, the reason why Tang and his team came together to fight Loh was because they finally had enough of the way the sport is being run, because of their passion and love for the sport, and because of their desire to do something to lift athletics out of its present two-decades long doldrums.
So what if they all have an axe to grind with the current SAA leadership? Does this necessarily mean that they are in the fray for personal gain? Does it mean that they are not the right people to run for office?
So if indeed some powerful forces are asking Low to take part in the elections, and are willing to do whatever they can to parachute him into the fray, and into office at the last minute, then one must ask: what kind of message are they sending to the grassroots?
The other paragraph from the report that interested me was the comment made by ‘a keen observer of the local sports scene’ who has, conveniently, decided to remain anonymous.
He said: “One of the most important tasks for anyone who takes over from Lin Kok would be to mend fences with the Singapore Sports Council, after all the bad press and criticism of the sport recently.
“Teo Ping, with his positions in the SSC and the SNOC, along with how he helped build sailing to where it is today, would be a good fit for that.”
I really don’t understand what this ‘keen observer” is trying to imply.
Is Tang’s team responsible for all the bad press and criticism that Singapore athletics has been suffering? Have they done anything in the past against the SSC that would require fence-mending?
The only cause of bad press for Tang’s team recently is Melvin Tan’s disagreements with national relays coach Hamkah Afik’s training schedule for the squad earlier this year, which resulted in Tan’s four runners deciding to stay away from relay training for a while (Tan is standing for the post of statistician in the elections).
Why would it be hard for Tang’s team to work with the SSC? They haven’t been in power, so doesn’t that mean they would be starting on a fresh page with the SSC if they are elected?
These are interesting times, and I eagerly wait to see the latest developments in this ongoing saga.
I hope we do eventually get to find out who approached Low to run for office, and I would be interested to find out the people who will make up the rest of his team.
Yours in sport
Singapore Sports Fan