‘Sports contracts should reconcile with the country’s laws’

Datuk Dr Ramlan Aziz has worked with athletes as a doctor, and was in charge of their welfare as an administrator.

Based on his experience, the former National Sports Council (NSC) director-general and National Sports Institute chief executive officer said often, there were loopholes in contracts between athletes and sports organisations.

Dr Ramlan has been keeping close tabs on the recent saga involving shuttlers Lee Zii Jia and Goh Jin Wei, and the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM). The pair had been slapped with a two-year suspension for leaving the national stable.

“I am not picking sides, but when I was the director-general of the NSC, I had cautioned about loopholes and caveats in contracts, and said that we must reconcile sports regulations with the laws of the land,” said Dr Ramlan, who headed the NSC from 2005 to 2007.

“Sometimes, the contracts are not worth the paper they are printed on, if scrutinised fastidiously.

“It has been 15 years since I stepped down as the head of the NSC. They (the contracts) should be better now, but that is not the case.”

Lawyer Nik Erman Nik Roseli, who specialises in commercial and sports law, told Twentytwo13 that a clause in the contract between BAM and the athletes was against the Malaysian Contracts Act, 1950.

Clause 7 in the players’ contracts with the national body reads: “In the event you withdraw from the National Training Centre, but continue, or intend to continue to participate in international competitions, then BAM shall be at liberty to take any punitive action against you as it may deem appropriate to protect BAM’s interests as the governing body of badminton in Malaysia.”

Nik Erman said the clause was against Section 28 of the Contracts Act, which states that every agreement, by which anyone is restrained from exercising a lawful profession, trade, or business of any kind, is to that extent, void.

Dr Ramlan advised all parties in this dispute to take control of their emotions and find a solution in the “best interests of the country”.

“The problem with our sports management is that no one bothers to exercise humanity in a human endeavour,” said Dr Ramlan.

Dr Ramlan says it is important to realise that the number one entity is always the athlete.

“They are not robots. It is about engaging with the athletes. Before making any decision, I always think, ‘what if it was my son or my daughter’?

“Then you realise that you need to treat the situation differently and spend more time and effort in finding a win-win solution,” said Dr Ramlan.

Lee tendered his resignation on Jan 11 with the intention of going professional. BAM, in a press conference last Friday, said its officials had held a series of discussions with the 23-year-old All England champion to persuade him to stay on, but to no avail.

Following massive public outcry, the government has decided to play peacemaker.

Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Faizal Azumu is scheduled to meet Lee in Kuala Lumpur this evening.

Contracts have also been a contentious issue among footballers, with some of them claiming that they are often one-sided, usually favouring the clubs’ interests.