IF sports were to have a council of elders, four persons likely to be included are Datuk Wira Mazlan Ahmad, Datuk Sieh Kok Chi, Datuk Lazarus Rokk and Johnson Fernandez.
These veterans have witnessed the good, bad and ugly of Malaysian sports and are of the opinion it is time for a standalone sports ministry with youth perhaps merging with education as the government wants to keep the cabinet small.
This was something former New Straits Times and Malay Mail editors Rokk and Fernandez wrote about nearly two decades ago.
There is a precedent for breaking up a ministry as the Youth and Sports Ministry was known as Culture, Youth and Sports from 1973 until 1987.
The quartet suggests going a step further by having a sports minister with a handful of officers but allowing Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) and National Sports Council (NSC) to run the show.
“Do we really need to spend more money when OCM and NSC are doing the work?” asked Mazlan, who was NSC director-general from 1993 until his retirement in 2005.
“A smaller but dedicated Sports Ministry would see a sports minister and a handful of officers coordinate with the relevant national sports associations, NSC and OCM.”
He also questioned the need for a sports commissioner. He cited examples of numerous international tournaments held in Malaysia which by law required a licence from the sports commissioner before bidding but the organisers only applied for it on the eve of their events.
“Does anyone actually respect the Sports Commissioner’s Office?”
“The sports commissioner’s function is something like RoS (Registrar of Societies) but unfortunately those who have held the office have not run the office as required.
“There are rules and regulations to follow but not many follow them. We can cut cost by eliminating this office,” Mazlan said.
Sieh, who earlier this month stepped down from OCM after 25 years of service, agreed there has been duplicity of work.
“Many of the things the Youth and Sports Ministry wants to implement are already being done by OCM, NSC and national sports associations.”
“There is a dire need for transparency as a lot of money has been wasted by needlessly hiring consultants from overseas when we have adequate local talents,” he added.
“Sports ministers like to put their people in charge of programmes … but most are not qualified to run them.”
He said the ministry is supposed to be in charge of policy.
“Implementation of programmes is by NSC and National Sports Institute but now, they are being decided by people from the ministry. Too many political appointees are running the programmes. A smaller ministry may solve this.”
For Rokk, sports has always been the stepson in the ministry.
“Politicians use sports as a vehicle to promote themselves. If it was up to me, I won’t let them near sports. Politicians are the ones spoiling it,” said Rokk.
“We should get professionals running sports. It doesn’t have to be an ex-athlete but someone who knows how to get the best result. A close-knit ministry working for the betterment of sports.”
He too said there was no need for a Sports Commissioner and that OCM should be consulted if there were disputes.
Fernandez, who was coaching hockey in schools until last year, said he gave up as no one bothered about developing sports.
“The grassroots have been neglected. The new government has appointed 10 ministers and sports was not considered important enough to be included immediately.
“When I was coaching, we trained for six months but only played a total of 90 minutes a year. How are our athletes going to improve?
“A dedicated sports ministry can look into this and help solve some of our sporting woes,” he added.