Differing fates of Top Glove and sports industry boils down to ringgit and sen

One is the world’s largest gloves manufacturer, the nation’s pride.
The other is the nation’s passion.

On the surface, it may seem odd to pit Top Glove Corp Bhd and the M-League in the ongoing “battle to continue business”.

But such a comparison is already a talking point among players of the sports industry who have been left paralysed since the Movement Control Order kicked in on March 18.

While the standard of football in Malaysia is debatable, the following is undeniably huge. So huge that even politicians have shamelessly jumped onto the football bandwagon to push their agendas.

Top Glove, on the other hand, has been a celebrated entity for all these years. When Covid-19 reared its ugly head and crippled economies worldwide, Top Glove was in the limelight as demand for high quality gloves surged worldwide.

The brand even earned more praise by joining forces with other glove industry leaders, namely Hartalega, Supermax and Kossan Rubber, by pledging RM400 million to the government in its fight against Covid-19 as announced during the tabling of Budget 2021 on Nov 6.

Top Glove, had in September, said its fiscal 2020 post-tax profit skyrocketed to 417 per cent from last year, adding that the “tremendous growth stemmed from a global surge in demand for gloves on the back of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

As economist Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam told Twentytwo13 immediately after the budget was tabled: “The government could have introduced some taxation for the rich … for example, estate duties, property tax, wealth tax and windfall tax.”

But Top Glove’s fairytale run for 2020 turned 180 degrees.

The Health Ministry confirmed the Teratai cluster originated from Top Glove’s worker dormitories in Klang. Instead of shutting the business down, however, the government allowed Top Glove to close its 28 factories in Klang “in stages”.

Top Glove executive director Lim Cheong Guan, in a virtual press conference on Nov 25, highlighted that about 3,000 of the 4,036 cases reported from the cluster were from their factories and hostels. The remainder, he said, were from other factories.

No business would want to be in such a predicament, especially one that is enjoying massive returns in such uncertain times.

So what has this got to do with football?

Well, those in the industry are now looking at the government – wanting to know why Top Glove, despite the number of cases, was allowed to close its factories “in stages” while the Malaysia Cup was given the boot despite the fact there has not been a football or even sports cluster?

In fact, the participating Malaysia Cup teams observed strict standard operating procedures with the tournament already at the quarterfinal stage.

The Malaysian Football League appealed against the decision to “postpone” the Malaysia Cup and even provided suggestions which included holding the tournament in a green zone to convince the National Security Council that the show must go on.

But it was still a big fat “No”.

Those outside the football fraternity also felt the heartache. Saying no to the Malaysia Cup would mean denying other sporting events, especially at the grassroots.

Many strongly believe the Conditional Movement Control Order will be extended beyond Dec 6 and that the uncertainty faced by the industry and the dilemma in securing sponsors will continue. CIMB and AirAsia are the latest to pull out from the M-League next year.

The Youth and Sports Ministry is pushing for a “sports bubble”.

Ironically, the “green travel bubble” is now allowed in the name of reviving the tourism industry.

Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri, in a Nov 23 press conference, said all vehicles travelling within the domestic “green travel bubble” will be allowed to utilise their full capacity.

“For domestic tourism purposes, full capacity in private vehicles and tourist buses,” she was quoted as saying.

In short, a busload of tested footballers wanting to compete in a tournament in a green zone is not allowed but a busload of tourists travelling from one green zone to another is allowed.

Tourism, entertainment and even the sports industries all rely on one another. Opening one sector while insisting the other remains closed is a narrow interpretation of how the domestic economy operates.

It doesn’t help that sports, especially football, seem to take from the government (i.e. state government funds) instead of pledging millions of ringgit to the government.

As part of its “Beyond Badminton” corporate social responsibility initiative, Top Glove encourages its employees to take up badminton and the brand even participated in the Purple League Corporate 2019.

In that aspect, it seems to be Top Glove 1 Sports Industry 0.

However, many overlook the fact that sports, when combined, is a billion ringgit industry involving a bigger spectrum of the masses.

Perhaps, the problem lies in the fact that Top Glove is seen as “important” while sports is just, as many would like to put it, sheer entertainment.

The powers-that-be fail to understand the sports industry and the value it brings to a population which is already mentally fatigued with worries and dilemmas due to the pandemic.

The double standard in tackling the above-mentioned scenarios is evident. Insulting the sports industry in such a manner is unacceptable.

It seems that the differing fates of Top Glove and the sports industry simply boils down to ringgit and sen.