Sports Ministry does not interfere in administration, policies of national sports associations, reminds Ti Lian Ker

Lawmakers were, this morning, given a gentle reminder over the powers of the Youth and Sports Ministry when it comes to sports associations.

Deputy Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Seri Ti Lian Ker, in addressing a question by William Leong Jee Keen (PH – Selayang) in the Dewan Rakyat, said the ministry did not have the power to interfere in the administration and policies of sports associations.

Leong had asked the ministry why the BA of Malaysia (BAM) had stopped shuttlers from turning independent, including by barring them from playing in international tournaments. His question came following the recent saga involving the national body and Lee Zii Jia and Goh Jin Wei, who had opted to play as independent shuttlers.

“The question should actually be directed at BAM, and not the ministry,” was Ti’s immediate reply.

“This is because the ministry does not have the power to interfere in the administration and policies of a sports association, unless there are issues raised specifically with the ministry, through the Sports Commissioner’s Office.”

Ti, however, acknowledged that the issue raised by Leong had caught the attention of sports fans in Malaysia and abroad.

“The ministry and BAM have a long-term and detailed plan to further develop athletes and the sport, and as such, it requires a huge investment and commitment to produce world-class athletes.

“Athletes who decide to go professional will disrupt the objectives and goals of the said sports association. This will impact and bring about implications to the sports association, and could create a conflict between the athletes, sports association, and the sponsors.

Ti pointed out that the association could also be subjected to legal action based on the contractual obligations between the sports body and the sponsors.

BAM, in January, slapped Lee and Goh with a two-year suspension, pending appeal, after the duo announced they would turn professional. The decision resulted in a public outcry that even saw Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob stepping in.

Following appeals by both players, BAM dropped the suspension and allowed them to play in international tournaments. Lee has since started his Lee Zii Jia Badminton Club and was part of the national team that won the gold medal in the recent Badminton Asia Team Championships. Goh, meanwhile, signed up with KLRC Sdn Bhd.

Ti hoped sports associations would scrutinise the contracts and obligations between athletes in their stable and sponsors, to ensure the sustainability and continuity of the sports association and the sport itself, while being mindful of the athletes’ career progression and welfare.

“Professional players have represented the country. Mixed doubles pair Chan Peng Soon-Goh Li Ying and women’s singles player Soniia Cheah, although professionals, had trained with players under BAM and represented the country in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.”

Leong, in an additional question, said BAM seemed to prioritise sponsorships, and had created a monopoly of players, to the extent of almost destroying the career of a player who had wanted to turn professional.

“Shouldn’t the objective be to guide the player until he (or she) becomes a world-beater? And what is the harm in BAM working with professional stakeholders (clubs) as practiced in other countries like Denmark? Why is it that those who turn professional are treated like enemies, instead of working together to ensure the country creates champions and regain the Thomas Cup?” Leong asked.

Ti said the government is committed to ensuring the development of athletes and sports. He pointed out that BAM had provided room for the players to appeal against the two-year suspension, and that they had done so.

“We cannot ignore the initial commitments between the sports association and the players. BAM provided room for the players to appeal against the decision. They went through the process.

“The ministry took the initiative by meeting both parties (BAM and the players) to hear them out. The matter has since been resolved.”

“We can only advise all those involved,” he added.