I refer to the article “Soh Rui Yong saga: S’pore IOC member Ng Ser Miang says athletes who don’t like incentive scheme rules can opt out” (Straits Times, Sep 24).

It states that “Ng said that  he was reminded of Liew’s sportsmanship after reading about athletes “going to the media fighting for self-interests without regard to the overall good for his sport… (and) forgets it is an honour and privilege and not a birth right to fly the flag of Singapore”.

The 68-year-old Ng told The New Paper that he did not want to get into a debate about Soh. He said: “Everybody is entitled to his view. But the award is a privilege, not entitlement. If an athlete does not believe in it (or its rules), he can opt out of it.””

What does “opt out of it” mean? That an athlete can opt not to donate the 20 per cent. Or that an athlete may not receive the award?

As to “The incentive scheme, devised by the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) in the 1990s, requires that athletes donate 20 per cent of their award money to their national sports association (NSA) for training and development. For the Commonwealth Games, the amount to be donated is 50 per cent. The Tote Board/Singapore Pools is the primary sponsor of the SNOC MAP awards and the donation is deducted before the award money is given to the athletes” – the Tote Board Group has accumulated surpluses of $4 billion for the financial year ended 31 March, 2016.

The funding (approvals in FY2015) for sports was only $19 million.

So, given the unhappiness voiced by so many sportsmen and sportswomen about having to donate up to 50 per cent of their awards for winning, to their sports associations – why can’t the Tote Board just pay another 20 per cent to the sports association (don’t deduct the 20 per cent before paying the athlete), instead of putting the burden on the sports person?

Do the athletes of other countries have to donate up to 50 per cent of their awards to their sports associations too?

In this connection, perhaps the remarks “A gold medallist is not always a champion. Being a champion is about more than winning medals. It is about being a role model and showing exemplary conduct” – should also arguably, be directed to the Tote Board too – be a role model and show exemplary conduct by giving more funding to sports, instead of accumulating $4 billion of surpluses?

“Soh, who has sent a protest letter against the deduction to the SNOC, has argued that Singapore Athletics has not given him any coaching help and does not deserve taking a share of his award money. He also pointed out that Singapore Athletics has been plagued by infighting and controversies over the past year.

Soh told The Straits Times on Friday: “I’m happy to meet with Mr Ng to better explain the things he might not have a complete understanding of – the challenges athletes are currently facing with Singapore Athletics, what can be done to improve the system, and why I was happy to donate my 20 per cent in 2015 but not this year.””


Leong Sze Hian
A.S.S. Contributor

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