Should BAM ditch patronage?

Barely a month after the 14th general election in 2018, Twentytwo13 revealed that the BA of Malaysia (BAM) was looking to replace its patron Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor.

The move was apparently to appease sponsors.

On Sept 20 the same year, former Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail was named the national body’s new patron.

As the new Cabinet – minus a deputy prime minister – was sworn in yesterday, talk of replacing the patron has once again naturally surfaced.

Dr Wan Azizah is from Pakatan Harapan and at odds with the ruling Perikatan Nasional leaders comprising those from Parti Pribumi Malaysia, Barisan Nasional, GPS and PAS. The manner in which the government voted in by the majority of the rakyat was dumped overnight has bewildered the people.

While not wanting to disrespect Dr Wan Azizah, insiders revealed a change could be necessary if the current government survives the first day of Parliament on May 18. This is because Pakatan Harapan claims to have the numbers and may call for a vote of no confidence, resulting in a snap election.

But having learnt from GE14 and given the complex political situation in Malaysia, does BAM really need a patron?

What is the function of the patron and how has she helped Malaysian badminton?

Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohamad Ali, wife of Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, served as BAM patron for over two decades before she was replaced by Rosmah in 2007.

It was then said that Siti Hasmah “withdrew” and Rosmah, wife of former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, was “invited” to the national body. Rosmah is known to actively play badminton.

Siti Hasmah, however, continued supporting the shuttlers through her occasional visits during training. She remains a lovable figure within the fraternity.

In early 2018, Siti Hasmah was dropped as patron of the Wheelchair Association Malaysia – a position she had held for 20 years – at the height of Dr Mahathir’s scathing attacks against Najib’s administration.

The association, however, denied the move was political and said it wanted a new patron as part of its “aggressive and extensive” overhaul plans. Nothing has been heard about Wheelchair Association Malaysia since.

Rosmah, according to those in the know, had played an instrumental role in getting major sponsors on board.

Dr Wan Azizah’s contribution throughout her almost two years as patron, meanwhile, pales in comparison – perhaps she was busy with her portfolio in Putrajaya.

Nevertheless, Dr Wan Azizah’s appointment then was necessary as sponsors were said to be shying away from the association due to the Rosmah link.

Rosmah and Najib remain embroiled in legal tussles. Both of them will also be featured on the second season of a Netflix documentary series – Dirty Money.

The series, created by Oscar-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney, focuses on financial scandals and corruption around the world and will air starting today.

Brands in Malaysia tend to favour the ruling elites and are known to immediately turn their backs on those who are associated with the opposition for fear of repercussions.

Some even pledge support to the leaders of the day only to immediately switch camps as evident post May 9, 2018.

BAM officials have in fact been raising funds on their own and contrary to popular believe, more can be done without the political baggage.

As sports has progressed and with BAM adopting a business-like culture, perhaps it’s best that it forgo the need for a patron. This would also mean ditching the protocols and “demands” that come with the patronage.

Otherwise, it could offer it to someone who is able to bring in RM1 million, if not more, to the association.

The current political uncertainty could serve as the best excuse for BAM, and other associations with patrons, to break away from tradition and fully embrace professionalism.