Sports Law Conference. Kuala Lumpur 27 September 2019
One of the first things we did when we come into this office was to look at the key document which define my portfolios, namely youth and sports.
For the sports portfolio, naturally I poured through the 2009 National Sports Policy. Under the NSP, there are three pillars.
The first pillar is high performance sports.
The second pillar is sports for all.
The third pillar is sports as an industry.
I believe we all can agree that despite there being room for improvement, and there’s always room for improvement, the government has played a substantial role in developing the first two pillars.
As for the third pillar, sports as an industry, I remember asking in one meeting, what are the Ministry’s programmes under this sector. One honest civil servant quietly whispered to me: there were none.
Some of you are key players in the sports industry. But if I were to ask you for numbers you may be hard-pressed. I remember asking for GDP numbers for sports. After a week or so, a senior office finally told me, there’s none. The government does not keep a separate account for sports as an industry. Hence we really have no idea the breadth and width of the industry and its contribution to our economy.
The problem with policymaking in modern government is, when you cannot quantify an issue economically, chances are, it will be deemed unimportant. No wonder sports and youth receives one of the lowest allocations every year for the lady one two decades.
We are here however not to just talk about the past. I am given 10 minutes. I am quite sure this was an unplanned session but I thought it is an opportunity
too precious to pass over – the platform to speak to lawyers within the sports sector.
Bear with me for a while, I am rushing to go to the airport after this, but I want to share with you several directions and trends from the Ministry of Youth and Sports under the leadership of Saudara Syed Saddiq since the past one year.
First we want to deal with the third pillar of the National Sports Policy. In this aspect, I have already with me preliminary data on sports and the economy. We are already working the Department of Statistics to publish these numbers perhaps by the end of this year or early next year.
Secondly, we are in the middle of working out a plan to establish an Akademi Sukan Malaysia, to complete the trinity of a high performance sports management outfit – Majlis Sukan Negara – a high-tech sports research outfit, Institut Sukan Negara, and now hopefully a sports education outfit – Akademi Sukan Malaysia.
Thirdly, we want to have a longer-term view on our sporting goals.
When we took over, what we realised was that the unfortunate thing about sports in Malaysia is that it is short term. The key performance indicator in sports is clear; it is based on the number of medals won so everyone is worried about the next competition, which is a short-term view. However, to develop a good player, it takes more than one competition. Sometimes, it takes up to several Olympic cycles. What we are trying to do in my ministry is to shift everyone into thinking long term, not just for Tokyo, but also Paris and Los Angeles.
Fourthly, we want to strengthen the tripartite partnership between government, national sports associations (NSAs) and the private sector. One is in the area of sports sponsorship. In the past the government has been the single biggest funder of sports in this country. While I am realistic enough to not foresee any radical shift in this position in the near future, I am also happy to report that government funding will be disbursed in a more accountable and
transparent manner. But more than that, we want NSAs to develop new partnership with the private sectors. In 2018, brands and corporate sponsorship to sports through the Majlis Sukan Negara reached RM93.3 million. Perhaps 80% of these went to one or two popular sports alone. This number however is still small compared to what the government spends on sports annually, anywhere from a quarter of a billion to almost RM700 million. Obviously there are still a lot of opportunities for expansion. I am happy to report that in just the past one month, in three sports alone, I was invited to witness MOU signing of corporate and brand sponsorship worth more than RM 2.5 million for the next one year. What was amazing was, all these were first time sponsors. As NSAs improve not only on the performance of their respective sports, but also on good governance, corporate sponsors will be more than willing to partner them. (Of course, eventually, brand sponsorship calls for more professional handling via legal professionals like you good selves)
Fifthly, we want to cast the net wider especially with talent sourcing and development. By around this time last year, after discussions with Datuk Seri Norza Zakaria, the president of BAM and the Olympic Council of Malaysia, BAM announced that they will accept professional players to represent the country. The idea is to allow for the proliferation of the network of private academies and clubs in this country. We want to duplicate the successes of the club ecosystem in other countries. Right now, the Ministry is working with BAM to come out with a route map to further strengthen this ecosystem; and the government task force for the first time includes stakeholders from among the private clubs.
Six, we want to make sports a more attractive career option for our athletes. In February this year, the government introduced a lifetime healthcare benefit to all national athletes and former national athletes. We also further empower the MACE programme under Majlis Sukan Negara – MACE stands for the Malaysian Athletes Career and Education unit – to introduce more than 22 universities all over the countries which are now partnering us to provide higher education opportunities for our athletes. A new programme called TRACK was also introduced to allow athletes to explore an alternative career option while still serving the country. Through TRACK, athletes will be placed in
participating companies for a certain hours a week for on-job trainings. Basically we want to help them to transition from the race track to their career track. Someone even joked that Track means Tolong Rakan Atlet Cari Kerja.
Seven, we want to change the way we look at investment in sports. As I said at the beginning, the Ministry for the past ten to twenty years have been receiving one of the lowest allocations. To give you a context, in the 2019 budget, MOH received RM30 billion, while MOE is RM60 billion. KBS – RM1 billion. Through open tender and good financial management we are able to stretch the ringgit further. For example, in one of our flagship mass sports programmes, FitMalaysia, we managed to do the same programme at only one fifth of the budget which was spent in the past. We are talking about 80% cost savings. But this is not my main point. My point is, we want to show that investments in sports have other outcomes besides the prestigious gold medal. The work which our scientists, our psychologists, our biomechanical engineers, our nutritionists, the work which they do, yes, while they primarily aim to improve the performance of our Olympians and athletes, they also have other outcomes, like helping us to better understand the human body, or conditions such as diabetes, cancer, movement impediments, obesity and many others. Institut Sukan Negara recently opened its Centre for Sports Medicine to members of the public. The hundreds of millions we invested in the sciences to win gold medal, these sciences can also benefits the people in general. P/S we are even thinking of introducing the athletes weight management programme to the Malaysian public struggling with the problem of obesity.
Finally, eight, ESports. It is a billion dollar industry. Even if the government does not get involved, the private sector is already involved. In fact, when the Finance Minister tabled Belanjawan 2019 in November last year, the first market response must be on the RM10 million allocation to Esports. Just hours later, a Singaporean company, Razer immediately announced that they will match the figure with another RM10 million investment, and barely 24 hours later, yet another company, this time a Malaysian company, also made the same announcement. The speed of response by the market not only reflected the millennial dynamics in the esports sector but also demonstrated market enthusiasm in this emerging industry.
My dear friends, I am have spoken beyond my time but I do wish you all the best and hope to engage all of you in the nearest future. The new administration humbly seeks your talents, experience and resources to make our reform work a success. Thank you very much for your kind attention.