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SPORTS MINISTER IS MORE THAN A PERSONA

The position of Sports Minister has been vacant for the first time since our first Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman held the portfolio in 1964.

There has been numerous suggestions as to whom should be appointed as the new Sports Minister. Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) Youth leader Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad, Muar MP Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman and Permatang Pauh MP Nurul Izzah Anwar are just some of the names being bandied around.

The combination of sport and youth in the Ministry has been but a political tool in the past. The huge funding allocated for the Ministry was used more often for youth programs with sports as a conduit.

It was important for the government of the day to capture the hearts and minds of the youth and what better way than to make use of sports.

While emphasis was given to elite training programs, not much thought was given to the importance of sports for all.

Old programs were recycled and rebranded under new names just like FIT Malaysia which is in fact a rehash of Malaysia Cergas.

The National Sports Policy (1988) stressed the role of the Ministry in promoting sports for all and recreational activities based on the Malaysia Cergas concept.

The creation of the National Sports Council (NSC) saw the Council taking over high performance sports while the Sports Division was to concentrate on sports for all.

The NSC started off as a small unit to assist the National Sports Association’s (NSA) but has grown to be a huge outfit, taking on roles beyond what was originally envisioned by the National Sports Council of Malaysia Act 1971.

The disparity in funding has seen development of sports for all taking a back seat to elite sports. And when Malaysia hosted the Commonwealth Games in 1998, the roles of the agencies under the ministry, including the NSC, has evolved and diversified.

With national glory being the catchphrase, NSA’s at the behest of the Ministry also paid more attention to elite programmes.

They were queuing up at the NSC for funding of elite programmes and in turn lost out on their independence to govern the sports.

Former Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin had announced last year that the Sports Development Act of 1997 would be amended this year. Over the last two year, the Ministry has been working on further “enhancing” the Act.

The fact of the matter is that the Sports Development Act is nothing about the development of sports. It was just another Act that was rushed through to give the Minister almost total control over NSA’s in Malaysia.

Much of the amendments being considered are also towards the same, including giving the Minister the absolute powers in approving international events, licensing fees to conduct events and even term limits for office bearers.

It was used with devastating effect to deregister various organisations including the Malaysian Amateur Athletics Union (MAAU) and the Malaysia Taekwondo Federation (MTF).

The Minister had used the powers given by the Act to deregister the MAAU for failure to develop the sports. However, it was common knowledge that it was used to remove certain top officials, who were not toeing the line set by certain officials.

Going by that same logic, more than half of the NSAs in Malaysia should be told to close down.

The Act also does not address the totality of the definition of sports. Only Olympic sports are included in the Act and are barred from registering under the Sports Commissioner’s Office. Sports associations not included in the Schedule of the Act are forced to register with the Registrar of Societies (ROS) and with it the chance of getting proper support from the Ministry.

With almost total dependence of government funding, a majority of NSA have discarded their role in promoting their sport at the grass root level.

Funds were used by the NSA’s mainly to prepare their elite athletes. At the state level, funds are again used to for state level athletes, especially for the Malaysia Games (SUKMA).

Many NSA’s do not even have its own marketing and sponsorship plans. This has not been helped by the fact that government agencies including the NSC are now actively looking for private sponsorships themselves.

The National Football Development Programme (NFDP) was created under the Ministry when it should have been under the purview of the Football Association Malaysia (FAM).

Why the Ministry wants to take over the role of the NSA is something that needs to be scrutinised.

Quite a number of programmes have been created and discarded when a new Minister takes over and at times not because it was a failure.

The national sports policy, more often than not became the decision of the Minister and not based on the feedback gathered from the NSA’s of the relevant sports agencies.

Who becomes the next Sports Minister is not important. The age of the next Sports Minister is also not important. The gender of the next Sports Minister is also not important.

It is important for the Sports Minister to review and implement the National Sports Policy more effectively.

It is important for the Sports Minister to review role of the various sports agencies and the programmes initiated over the last decade.

It is important for the Sports Minister to review the funding for the development of sports and NSAs. This should not be based on personal preferences or glamour sports or without proper Key Performance Indexes (KPI).

It is important for the Sports Minister to review the Sports Development Act, with input from an independent sports panel comprising of representatives of all stakeholders.

It is important for the Sports Minister and the heads of the various sports agencies to be accessible to all, and not only to selected elite NSAs.

It is important for the Sports Minister to review Sukan Malaysia.

But, most importantly, the new Sports Minister has to work hand in hand with other Ministries and agencies (Health Ministry, Women Ministry, City Halls etc).

The new Sports Minister has a lot on his/her plate and would only succeed if the rest of the sports fraternity work hand-in-hand.

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