Sports Ministry to relook athletes’ contracts after Podium Programme gets RM240m shot in arm

The government has allocated RM240 million for the Podium Programme after the matter was discussed at this morning’s Cabinet meeting.

Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Faizal Azumu, in thanking the Cabinet for the allocation, said the ministry would now relook at the contracts of the athletes who were dropped from the elite programme earlier this year due to a shortage of funds.

“We have heard from the athletes, from sports lovers and from sports officials. Their views were brought to the Cabinet, and the government has agreed to fund the Podium Programme,” said Ahmad Faizal.

“We will relook at the contracts (of the athletes) that were terminated.”

Ahmad Faizal, during a press conference at Wisma KBS in Putrajaya this afternoon, said the ministry held several discussions with athletes, sports officials, government agencies, the Economic Planning Unit, and the Finance Ministry, after the government did not allocate funds for the Podium Programme as it was not budgeted for in the 2022 Budget.

“Based on those discussions, the Cabinet today agreed to fund the Podium Programme from this year, until 2025, with a total allocation of RM240 million, or RM60 million each year.

“The Cabinet also agreed that a new sports development programme be introduced under the 12th Malaysia Plan.”

Ahmad Faizal added that with this allocation, the National Sports Council (NSC) would be able to prepare athletes for several major sporting events, including the SEA Games (in May), Commonwealth Games (July-August) and the Asian Games (in September).

The elite athletes were also preparing for the 2024 Olympics, and Paralympics.

The Podium Pogramme was introduced in 2015 to groom world-class athletes.

NSC, however, was forced to trim down the number of athletes under the programme beginning this year due to lack of funds.

This resulted in a public outcry as there were funds for mega-events like the rebranding of Human Resource Development Corp (HRD Corp) and the 100 Day Aspirasi Keluarga Malaysia programme.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri had also recently allocated RM10 million to the FA of Malaysia, further raising eyebrows as the sport has suffered poor results for many years.

The Cabinet also agreed that this year’s Malaysia Games (Sukma) and Para Sukma will be held in Kuala Lumpur.

Ahmad Faizal said the decision was made after Johor, the original host, decided against organising the events.

“The Sukma and Para Sukma must go on, so that the development of sports at the state level will be consistent.

“If we don’t have Sukma and Para Sukma this year, there will not be continuity, as the last Sukma was held in 2018.”

He said the sports bubble will be adopted in the Kuala Lumpur edition, which will be organised by the NSC.

“This is to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the athletes and officials.”

Some 12,000 people are expected to be part of the national games, which will be held in phases, to ensure proper crowd control and that the standard operating procedures mandated by the National Security Council, are observed.

Ahmad Faizal said the number of sports to be contested in Sukma and the exact dates would be finalised by the Sukma supreme committee soon.

“We have a tight sporting calendar this year. It could be held in the middle of the year. The committee will confirm the dates and the number of sports.”

He said the cost of organising Sukma and Para Sukma in Kuala Lumpur would be between RM35 million and RM40 million, and that the organisers would use existing sports facilities.