Athletics: Sharing cash a path to growth

Local athletes feel they are obliged to hand over a cut of their medal award to their NSAs

Soh Rui Yong approaching the finish line during the SEA Games men's marathon on Aug 19, 2017. Soh protested against the mandatory donation to the Singapore Athletics.
Soh Rui Yong approaching the finish line during the SEA Games men's marathon on Aug 19, 2017. Soh protested against the mandatory donation to the Singapore Athletics.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Some members of the local sports fraternity feel that as long as athletes compete under the umbrella of their respective national sports associations (NSAs), they will have to abide by the rule requiring them to donate part of their MAP award to their NSA.

This is one of the terms of the Multi-Million Dollar Award Programme (MAP), which provides a cash payout to athletes who win medals at the Olympic, Asian, Commonwealth and SEA Games.

Athletes are required to donate 20 per cent of the MAP awards from the SEA, Asian and Olympic Games to their NSAs. The quantum is 50 per cent for the Commonwealth Games. The sum is deducted automatically.

National marathoner Soh Rui Yong protested last Saturday against the mandatory donation, which is earmarked for future training and development.

The 26-year-old felt Singapore Athletics (SA), which governs track and field here, was undeserving of the gesture, following the bitter disputes and controversies that have plagued the association over the past year.

The athletes whom The Straits Times approached agreed to speak on condition of anonymity.

Said a former national athlete: "If Rui Yong did cover all his training expenses on his own, he should keep the 20 per cent of the money.

"But if the association did help him in funding certain competitions, he should return it to them."

Another SEA Games medallist felt that giving back part of her prize money to her NSA is "the least we can do".

"I've been with my association for a long time and I feel that it is only right," she added. "At the end of the day, I feel that if the association is here for the well-being of the athlete, then we shouldn't question what they do with the money."

Singapore Sailing chief executive officer Lim Han Ee described the situation as "lose-lose".

"There's bound to be conflict in sports. It takes a village to raise a champion so we have to work through our differences to find better ways to grow the sport," he added.

"Our job is to nurture champions - it's not even for the NSA, it's for sustainability. The 20 per cent comes back and we funnel it back to development, that's why the governance is very important, so (that) the money stays within the system for the development of the sport."

Soh, who retained his SEA Games gold in Kuala Lumpur last month, will receive $10,000 under the MAP awards. The awards, devised by the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) in the 1990s, are primarily sponsored by the Tote Board/Singapore Pools.

Responding to The Straits Times' queries, a Tote Board spokesman said on Sunday: "The MAP is an SNOC programme funded by Tote Board. There are established terms and conditions for the MAP.

"SNOC will deal with this matter with respective stakeholders."


An SNOC spokesman said yesterday: "While we acknowledge there are currently issues in Singapore Athletics to be ironed out, SA did support its athletes financially to prepare for the SEA Games.

"The support to the athletes is even more crucial now as two major Games (Commonwealth and Asian) loom. The important thing here is to ensure that SA is supported and guided on the task at hand and uses the resources available wisely to support its athletes.

"SNOC and SportSG will work with SA to ensure that it continues to support its athletes in the lead-up to the coming Games."

Soh told ST yesterday: "If the protest is not accepted, I'll wait to hear the reason why before deciding what my next step should be."

He is not the only athlete who has expressed a reluctance to plough back a part of their MAP winnings.

In 2008, swimmer Tao Li was criticised by the sports fraternity for her reluctance to give back 6 per cent of her MAP prize to the Singapore Swimming Association for youth development.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 19, 2017, with the headline 'Sharing cash a path to growth'. Subscribe