eSports body ‘disappointed’ with Sports Commissioner’s session, perplexed by ‘talks’ to deregister OCM

An electronic sports association in Malaysia is disappointed following a meeting with the Sports Commissioner on Nov 14, claiming it veered off course from getting the body registered.

Representatives from Malaysia Electronic Sports Governance Association (MEGA) were also perplexed as to why the newly-minted Sports Commissioner, Suhardi Alias, had repeatedly highlighted that he had the power to deregister the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM), and had during the meeting called one of his predecessors an “idiot” for approving so many sports associations.

Suhardi, when contacted by Twentytwo13, however, justified his actions saying he had “acted in good faith” by calling for the meeting.

Following the 10.30am meeting, MEGA had written a letter to Youth and Sports Minister, Hannah Yeoh. The letter, dated on the same day and sent to a representative of the ministry yesterday, among others, highlighted that:

  • MEGA was only informed of the meeting on Nov 10 via a WhatsApp message that was sent “late in the evening”.
  • No agenda was provided for the meeting.
  • MEGA was surprised that representatives from the Malaysian Electronic Sport Federation (MESF) were invited to the session, adding that MESF’s presence was “unreasonable and improper”.
  • Suhardi had, at least five times, urged MEGA to join MESF as a club.

“The Sports Commissioner went on to explain that MEGA’s registration process could not be carried out as Section 16 of the Sport Development Act states that there should not be more than one national sports association,” read the letter signed by MEGA president, Kenchi Yap.

“We refer to Section 16 of the Act that states: Any sports body registered under the Societies Act 1966 shall, on the date of coming into force of this Act, cease to be registered under the Societies Act 1966 and shall, within five months thereof, apply to the Commissioner to be registered under this Act to carry out any sporting activity; and such sports body shall continue to operate as a sports body until notified otherwise by the Commissioner.

“We referred to our lawyer regarding Section 16 and were informed that the section does not, directly or indirectly, provide any provision that does not allow the registration of more than one national sports body. We were also informed by our lawyer that it was not right for the Sports Commissioner’s Office to refer to the said Section as a justification not to proceed with our registration.”

MEGA also said Suhardi had acted beyond his powers stipulated under Section 11(1) of the Sport Development Act, adding that he had, among others, delayed the registration process (since February) without a valid reason.

The session was arranged following MEGA’s application to be registered under the Sports Commissioner’s Office (SCO) in February this year. MESF is registered with the SCO. MESF is listed as a member of the International Electronic Sports Federation (IESF) and the Asian Electronic Sport Federation (AESF). There is also the Global eSports Federation which MEGA claims it is affiliated with.

The International Olympic Council (IOC) has yet to recognise any international eSports federation, but the Olympic Council of Asia recognises AESF. Both MESF and MEGA, meanwhile, are not affiliated with OCM.

AESF, in an email on Nov 3, wrote to OCM stating that it had updated its regulations on governing memberships and that the regional body would only accept a national federation that is recognised or affiliated with the National Olympic Committee (i.e. OCM). AESF added that it was “important to define who is the legitimate national federation to work with, especially for the upcoming Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games (AIMAG) in February 2024, SEA Games 2025, Asean Para Games 2026, AESF competitions, Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) events, and SEA Games and Para Games 2027 preparations”.

Several MEGA representatives were part of the working committee that oversaw Malaysia’s participation in the Asian Games. Wong Kang Woon, who represented MEGA at the meeting, was the country’s eSports squad team manager at the recent Asian Games in China.

Yap, Wong, and another MEGA representative, Hisham Darus, confirmed that Suhardi had mentioned deregistering OCM during the meeting that lasted some one hour 13 minutes. They were equally perplexed that Suhardi had also drawn comparisons to the episode with the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, stressing that OCM “can go on to represent any other country”.

“Yes, he also mentioned that he had the power to deregister OCM, and drew a comparison to what was happening in Gaza,” said Yap, who met Twentytwo13 earlier today. Hisham, who accompanied him, also confirmed the matter.

“It was not a professional meeting. Our meeting was supposed to be on our registration but MESF also joined us, and then, talked about OCM … I don’t know why,” said Yap.

“I don’t see any reason for him not to register us.”

When asked by Twentytwo13 why wouldn’t MEGA join MESF as per the recommendation made by Suhardi, Yap replied: “It’s too messy and we don’t want to be liable for their (MESF) mess. We’re not trying to replace or get anyone deregistered. The main point here is that we serve different international federations.”

Suhardi had allegedly said during the meeting: “Just like OCM wants to host the 2027 SEA Games. We have sent many letters to (OCM general secretary) Datuk Nazifuddin (Najib) … last week I had to send a letter to (OCM president) Tan Sri Norza (Zakaria) to inform him that without the approval (to host the SEA Games) … written letter from the minister, you cannot host the SEA Games. If you host the SEA Games, you can be fined a minimum of RM50,000, or a maximum of RM500,000, and maybe, serve a five-year jail term, if you host.

“That’s what I told Tan Sri Norza, and they were surprised. I don’t want to use my power but you need the written approval from the minister. That means anybody who wants to host any event, even in Sarawak. I’ve just told the Sarawak government recently, since 2004, they have agreed to abide by our laws. They also have to get our approval, in writing, from the minister, to host,” Suhardi had allegedly said.

Suhardi said strict enforcement will begin next year. He also spoke about the need to have medical intervention to avoid children being addicted to playing games.

Suhardi also allegedly said: “Can we deregister OCM so that they can represent another country? I think I will deregister OCM so that they can represent another country. We all (those in the meeting) have the same intention, but OCM is playing politics. You can receive instructions from OCA and go represent another country … we live in Malaysia, we have our own IC (identity card) but we have to follow OCA … we have to follow (laughs). Then, we will be like Palestine, we have to follow what the US wants, what Israel wants, right? So, deregister OCM and get them to represent Taiwan or … no one has done it. Sports Commissioners in the past weren’t brave. But I can do it. The power is vested in me. We want to develop eSports, but let’s not make decisions that will tarnish the country’s reputation.”

“When you ask us to register another (national body), it’s against the law.”

Section 9 of the Sports Development Act states that “subject to this Act, the provisions of this Act, which are applicable to a sports body, shall be equally applicable to OCM, and references to a ‘sports body’ in those provisions, shall include a reference to OCM”.

Suhardi highlighted the taekwondo saga in Malaysia that occurred several decades ago where several associations were registered, only to be deregistered, later. The episode even resulted in legal suits by the conflicting parties.

“If I register you (MEGA), it will be like taekwondo. Those days, when you were not even born, in 1992, taekwondo we had Sarah Chung, we (later) had Elaine Teo. But because (of) one idiot who became a sports commissioner, registered so many sports associations, now we can’t even qualify for the Olympics. One idiot (who) became (a) sports commissioner is enough. I don’t want that to happen again.”

It is understood that Suhardi had said in the meeting that “it’s best we put ego aside” and “work towards common goals”, urging MEGA to be a part of MESF.

He repeated that he valued the contributions of both associations and hoped the parties “would come to a consensus”.

Suhardi also hoped that the parties would provide an answer soon, as he had to submit a report to the minister.

Suhardi, had this evening, acknowledged there was a recording of the Nov 14 meeting making its rounds.

“The purpose of the meeting was to find ways to assist the development of eSports without contravening any laws. We called both parties to get a consensus for a win-win situation,” Suhardi told Twentytwo13.

“By right, a body registered under ROS (Registrar of Society) has five months to register with the Sports Commissioner’s Office. Perhaps my predecessor did not go ahead with MEGA’s registration as under Section 16 of the Sports Development Act, we cannot have two governing bodies.”

Suhardi admitted he had suggested MEGA register as a club under MESF as the latter had agreed to accept it as an allied member.

On claims that he had said he could deregister OCM, Suhardi said he was explaining the consequences of the law as under Section 25 of the Act.

“I do not want a situation when the international governing body for eSports stops our athletes from competing,” said Suhardi.

“Whoever breaks the rules, must face action and if OCM breaks the rules, the Sports Commissioner’s Office must take action.”

Suhardi also denied calling his predecessors an “idiot”, stating he meant only idiots would register more than one governing body.

“And it would be left to the new person in office to clean up the mess, ” he added.

Later in a Whatsapp message to Twentytwo13, Suhardi said: “I wonder, MEGA requested the Sports Commissioner to approve their registration. But when the Sports Commissioner called them to mediate with the legitimate NSA (national sports association) for eSports in Malaysia (MESF), they recorded the discussion and spread it out. I think we can conclude their integrity by the way they conduct themselves.”