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Wan's Column - Of Clubs, State AAAs And Sukma Games

Of late I have been spending my Saturdays doing the much needed spring cleaning in my house as I need to recoup some space to set up what we normally call a SOHO or Small Office Home Office. I see the need to create a conducive work space in my house to carry out some work that I would eventually do at home in my years ahead when I leave full time employment. I went through the many files and plastic folders I have been keeping when I was active managing Pacesetters Athletic Club, Malaysia (PACM).

This is a good time for me to thrash out what I do not need to keep anymore moving forward. Other than a few files I need to keep for nostalgic reasons, most could be trashed or pass back to the club should they see value in keeping those materials. Going through the thick stack of material I found a plastic folder full of articles cut out from the New Straits Times back in 2003/4 when there was a great debate on the role of clubs in the development of sports organized by the Sports Commissioner involving 45 sports bodies.

During that discussion, it was felt that the club has a role in sports development and many high powered sports figures were interviewed. I shall not repeat the full discussion that could run in several pages but would highlight some of the quotes from these sports figures;

1. Maybe it is time to break away, and I mean a complete break, from the present state-based affiliation and move to a more club-based structure.- Tunku Imran, President, Olympic Council of Malaysia. (NST, 31st December 2002)

2. Clubs used to play a major role in developing athletics and producing caliber athletes in the past. If we can revive the interest from these clubs it will be a big boost for athletics in the country – Datuk Khalid Yunus, President, MAAU (NST, 2nd January 2003)

3. The club system is the best structure as it reaches out to a broader base, and reduces the numerous layer of governance that is found in sports today. But if we are waiting for national association to initiate the change, it may never happen. It has to be done though the Sports Act.- Datuk Sieh Kok Chi, Secretary, Olympic Council of Malaysia. (NST, 6th January 2003)

4. Infrastructure, funding and sustainability are of paramount importance if club system in soccer is to have any hope of replacing the present state-based structure in the country. – Datuk Dell Akbar Khan, Secretary General, Football Association of Malaysia. (NST, 13th January 2003)

5. Especially in team sports, we sometimes have groups of people who get together and form a club to play actively, there are many of these, and this is why we need to look into the governance of this club structure. How are we going to put this club structure together and who is going to run events for them, and who are the administrators? – Tunku Imran, Preseident, Olympic Council of Malaysia (NST, 15 January 2003)

6. The recent proposal for sports clubs in the country to become direct affiliate of national sports body will sound the death knell for athletics in Sarawak. – Datuk Mustapha Besar, President, Sarawak AAA.(NST, 16th January 2003)

7. We have a weakness. Most of the States that are club-based are doing well while States without clubs affiliated to them are not producing the desired results. – Edwin Chong, Secretary, Amateur Swimming Union of Malaysia. (NST, 16th January 2003)

8. Clubs will not have a future, at least as far as athletics is concerned, until and unless the MAAU provide the environment and structure to encourage clubs to play a more prominent role and grow in strength. – Wan Yew Leong, President, Pacesetters Athletic Club, Malaysia. (NST, 22nd January 2003)

9. Many are not confident as the system (club based structure) has not been tested in our country and a thorough research and experts’ view have to be sought – Mahamad Zabri Min, Sports Commissioner (NST, 24th January 2003)

10. The present State based system has not taken Malaysian sports farther than it should. As such, the time has come for some soul searching and review the present structure. The clubs are the key to the future of Malaysian sports. Clubs are the source of talents and success of countries in Europe, and I believe they have a major role to play here as well. Without the clubs, there can be no competitions at the district or grassroots levels. – Datuk Azalina Othman, Sports Minister (NST, 16th February 2004)

11. The decrease in the number of athletic clubs in the country, given the past scenario, is a big disappointment. Most of them seem to have disappeared from the scene, and I believe it is time for MAAU to act on the matters – Tunku Imran, President, Olympic Council of Malaysia (NST, 24 February 2004)

12. I have instructed the Commissioner’s Office to draw up plans to enable clubs to secure funding directly from the ministry. This is an extension of our efforts to encourage grassroots development and since clubs have played an important role in the past, we believe they can do so again. – Datuk Azalina Othman, Sports Minister (NST, 10th November 2004)

I followed the discussion with great interest at that time as I was managing a club. The Sports Commissioner’s Office later came out with a structure that incorporates a role for the clubs. The clubs were requested to register themselves with the Sports Commissioner’s Office. Very little is heard about this club issue the last two years and I think very little has changed over the last two years.

FTAAA Annual General Meeting
On Wednesday 26th July 2006, I attended the Annual General Meeting of the Federal Amateur Athletic Association (FTAAA) as the representative of PACM. I used to attend this meeting as President of PACM. This year I got calls from Munning, current President of PACM and Mr. Vegiyathuman who was one of the two representatives of PACM. I decided to attend just to catch up with the circle of people from the athletic fraternity. I observed that the FTAAA is losing membership, it has now less than 30 affiliates as compared to nearly 90 about 10 years ago.

The main reason as explained by Mr. Vegiyathuman, the Hon. Secretary of FTAAA is due to the merger of the banks and many of the banks’ sports clubs that were affiliates previously are now dissolved. I am of the view that this may be part of the reasons but the flip side is that we do not have any new clubs coming into athletics. In the past I used to attend most of the council meetings of FTAAA, I did not remember a single new application for membership. FTAAA is probably the leading AAA in the country and I can’t imagine the situation in the AAAs of the lesser States. The sad fact is I do not know of a single new athletic club emerges the last few years! Even those that are still affiliates of FTAAA are largely relatively inactive with the exception of PACM.

I must say I am not a fan of the SUKMA Games as it has never interest me. Yesterday, the Olympic Council of Malaysia and the National Sports Council jointly organized a forum to discuss the SUKMA Games and the changes necessary. The event was officiated by Datuk Azalina Othman, the Sports Minister. I was at the OCM Building after the Beginners Running Program to register for the Putra Jaya Marathon at 11.00am. I decided to stay a while to attend one of the workshops on the role of the National Sports Associations (NSA) in SUKMA based on a paper by Datuk Naim Mohamed, the Deputy President of the Malaysian Cycling Federation.

I learnt that the costs of staging the SUKMA 2004 are as much as the 21st SEA Games in 2001. In one of his slides, he presented a pyramid of sports from district, state, national and international level together with the stakeholders in the development of sports. I immediately notice vividly the absence of the clubs in that pyramid. I posed the question to Datuk Naim after his presentation and he apologized for the omission and added that the clubs should be slotted along with the districts. I personally believe that in the minds of most NSA officers, there is no role for the clubs as there are few capable clubs in most sports.

This is precisely the problem as the role of clubs in sports development is now the exception than the rule. While I am not well versed with the happenings in other sports, I could discuss confidently that the developmental role by athletic clubs is very limited. I only know of Silver Star Athletic Club (SSAC) being active in the Klang Valley due to the effort by Mr. Saravanan, a school teacher and his team training track athletes at Selayang Stadium. I started some form of youth development at PACM with two centers, Kampung Pandan Sports Center in 2000 and MPSJ Stadium in 2001. The effort is not as intensive as SSAC as it is only held once a week on Saturday or Sunday.

I recall that most of my Executive Committee members were not very interested in youth development program. This is understandable as most of us are not past track runners and therefore have no passion for the track. We are veteran road runners and we are interested in the participation in well organized road races, achieve good health, collect a few medals and have a good time. Clubs like PACM, Kelab Road Runners Ipoh, Klang Pacers, Batu Pahat Marathon Club and Camel Marathon Club are all road runners clubs made up largely of adults or veterans. These clubs do not get any financial support from the government, national or State AAA and therefore do not see any reasons to carry out youth development program. These clubs are keen to organize a road race under their name or take their teams over to Thailand or Singapore for road races. I do not see any shift in their direction based on my knowledge.

This article is getting a little too long for a single reading. I will still have burning issues to discuss but would like to sign off till another time. Happy Running!

Wan Yew Leong
31st July 2006


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