More throw weight behind Safe Sport Act, enabling athletes and officials to report abuses

Football star Brendan Gan, who is recovering from testicular cancer, has thrown his weight behind the proposed Safe Sport Act.

The 33-year-old Selangor captain said it was about time athletes and officials were protected against abuse.

“I have been lucky not to have suffered any abuse. But I know that it does happen,” said Gan, who hopes to return to action later this season.

“As athletes, we have to face criticism from the coach or other officials. But there is a line that should not be crossed. In the past, that line has been so blurred, that we did not know if it was tough love, or bullying, or mental abuse.”

A task force set up in 2017, and headed by former track queen Datuk Marina Chin, found there was abuse and harassment – not only sexual, but mental too – among athletes in Malaysia. The task force noted that the abuse extended to male athletes, too.

The task force handed the report to former Youth and Sports minister Khairy Jamaluddin, but there have not been any updates since.

Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Faizal Azumu, who took office last August, had promised to table the draft of the Safe Sport Act in Parliament by year-end. However, the looming general election could derail his plans.

“As it is still a draft, no one knows for sure what will be in the Act. But, if there is an avenue for athletes to report cases of abuse and not worry about any repercussions, I am all for it,” said Gan.

“Hopefully, the Act makes it easier for athletes to understand when there has been wrongdoing, or when something is unacceptable.”

Shuttler Goh Liu Ying, echoed Gan’s sentiments, adding that athletes need to be more aware of their surroundings and that there must be a safe way of reporting abuse.

“I believe the Safe Sport Act will ensure that an independent body will look into any and all allegations,” said Goh, who won the silver in the mixed doubles event at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

“Sometimes, athletes may be afraid to lodge a report, as the people involved could be insiders.

“Hopefully, the Act will be passed as soon as possible to give athletes another layer of protection.”

Previously, Olympian Noraseela Khalid said the Act must oversee every aspect of safety in sports, including protecting young boys and girls, and risk management.

The Women’s Centre for Change (WCC), Penang, and Sisters in Islam had also backed the Act as they continued their call towards a review of the Anti-Sexual Harassment Bill that had been in the works since the 1990s.

Women’s Sports and Fitness Foundation Malaysia (WSFFM) vice-president, Datin Rosmawati Abdul Halim, in welcoming the proposed Act, however, added that enforcement must also be stepped up.