Singapore Sports: Team sports not ruled out

Singapore's water polo players celebrating their gold medal at the 2015 SEA Games. Using the sport as an example because he is a former water polo player, SportSG chief executive officer Lim Teck Yin said several members of a squad would have to comm
Singapore's water polo players celebrating their gold medal at the 2015 SEA Games. Using the sport as an example because he is a former water polo player, SportSG chief executive officer Lim Teck Yin said several members of a squad would have to commit to full-time training in order to win funding.TNP FILE PHOTO

Sport Singapore boss clarifies that funding model is not skewed to benefit individuals

Team sports are not - and have never been - excluded from the war chest of financial support set aside for high performance sport.

However, the reality is that team sports are starkly different from individual sports when viewed in terms of a return on investment, said Sport Singapore (SportSG) chief executive officer Lim Teck Yin.

"It is quite obvious when you think about being very targeted (about where funding goes) that you would gravitate towards the individual sports," he said at a media briefing held yesterday at the National Youth Sports Institute.

Lim was expanding on the Government's recent pledge of an additional $50 million, as well as a new One Team Singapore dollar-for-dollar matching grant, that could see the pot for funding of top athletes expand by as much as another $150 million over five years.

He added: "Conceptually, we have never ruled out an individual who is part of a team for, potentially, asking to be a Sports Excellence (spex) scholar."

WILLING AND ABLE

There are people prepared to meet that position of commitment.

LOW TEO PING, Singapore Rugby Union president, on whether there is a potential core of rugby players to earn financial support.

No recipient of the spexScholarship - the support programme for elite athletes - has hailed from a team sport since the scheme started in 2013.

Furthermore, neither Project 0812 nor the Olympic Pathway Programme, the two initiatives that preceded the spexScholarship, included any athletes from team sports.

Rather than a conscious exclusion of team sports, it is more a reflection of the strengths of Team Singapore athletes, as well as an attempt to capitalise on the Republic's most likely paths to success.

Lim said SportSG is open to putting top-dollar investment into team sports. However, for the idea to bear "material effect", it would demand considerable commitment from the core of a team that has the potential to perform at least at the continental level and beyond.

A former national water polo player, Lim drew an analogy using the sport.

At least five or six who make up the starting seven would be expected to take up a full-time training load, perhaps training out of a base like Australia, before the proposal is worth considering.

He said: "We should really be targeting to push for world, Olympic, Paralympic (and the) Asia level. From a return on investment point of view, the team sport model cannot be the same as (that of an) individual sport."

Singapore Rugby Union president Low Teo Ping, who had wondered if team sports remained "within the radar screen", welcomed the clarification.

He also feels that there are national athletes from rugby - as well as other team sports - who are prepared to make this leap of faith.

Said Low: "That gives some clarity and it's very encouraging.

"I believe there are people prepared to meet that position of commitment.

"We definitely would like to work towards it and I think it's very tenable."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 16, 2017, with the headline 'Team sports not ruled out'. Print Edition | Subscribe