Karate to unite factions

David Thong (in dark jacket) the president of the Singapore Karate-do Federation (SKF), with young competitors. He said the expelled clubs would be welcomed back as affiliates, so as not to overlook talented athletes
David Thong (in dark jacket) the president of the Singapore Karate-do Federation (SKF), with young competitors. He said the expelled clubs would be welcomed back as affiliates, so as not to overlook talented athletes. ST FILE PHOTO

Governing body seeks to patch up differences by holding meeting with six former affiliates

After years of in-fighting, the sport of karate could finally be set for a new chapter.

Last Thursday, local karate governing body Singapore Karate-do Federation (SKF) said in a Facebook post that it will hold a town hall meeting with six of its former affiliates next month in a bid to resolve their differences.

The six were sacked from the SKF in 2011 for being part of the Karate-Do Union of Singapore (KUS), which SKF felt had tried to oust it as the sport's controlling body.

In an e-mail response to The Straits Times, SKF president David Thong said he hoped that all parties can put aside their differences for the athletes' sake.

Thong, who is also the national head coach, said: "We all would agree that there will always be different factions and opinions. The SKF therefore wants to seek a path where all these different interests can co-exist with our shared values and athlete-centric policies.

"We will therefore address (the dismissed affiliates') concerns head on."

FINDING COMMON GROUND

We all would agree that there will always be different factions and opinions. The SKF therefore wants to seek a path where all these different interests can co-exist with our shared values and athlete-centric policies.

DAVID THONG, SKF president, on his hopes for the town hall meeting.

Local sports governing body Sport Singapore (SportSG) and the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) confirmed they will be represented at the meeting, to beheld on June 17 at the Hotel Royal.

SportSG disburses funding to national sports associations while the SNOC selects athletes for major events like the SEA Games and Asian Games.

Singapore Sports Institute chief Bob Gambardella told The Straits Times yesterday: "SportSG has been concerned over the fragmentation of the karate fraternity over the last few years. This has an undesirable effect on the development of our athletes and the sport.

"SportSG therefore mooted the idea of a town hall meeting to realign the fraternity's focus to grow the sport. We would like everyone to put aside their differences and commit to efforts to build a sustainable pathway for the athletes..."

The town hall invitations were sent by post last Friday and Thong said clubs should receive them soon.

He said the SKF would welcome the expelled clubs back as affiliates should they wish to rejoin the association, so as not to overlook talented athletes. Only athletes under the SKF umbrella can represent Singapore at major games.

The next SEA Games are just over a year away and will be held from Aug 19-31 in Kuala Lumpur, where karate will return to the programme after it was omitted from last year's edition in Singapore.

The Republic last competed at the SEA Games karate event in 2011 and won one bronze medal. It did not send a karate exponent to the 2013 Games in Myanmar.

KUS president Roger Wang said his affiliates have yet to receive the invitations, but hoped SportSG and SNOC will take on active roles in discussions and "we would be keen to work under their leadership".

The KUS claimed they have around 1,500 karatekas, and are still organising competitions - including one this Sunday.

Wang said: "As long as proceedings are fair and there is proper corporate governance practised, we will be supportive of this initiative, including becoming SKF affiliates."

Cracks within the sport had appeared as far back as 1990 and escalated in 2011. The squabbling resurfaced in recent years when karate was left out of last year's SEA Games - despite intense lobbying.

SNOC vice-president Tan Eng Liang said then that the SKF's lack of support from practitioners here made it untenable to stage the competition on home soil.

With karate's various stakeholders taking steps to engage each other, it appears the sport is moving in the right direction.

Thong said: "SKF has been nominating our national athletes for every SEA Games and will definitely do the same for the 2017 SEA Games."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 25, 2016, with the headline 'Karate to unite factions'. Print Edition | Subscribe