Athletics: Turmoil within Singapore Athletics

Singapore Athletics current president Ho Mun Cheong.
Singapore Athletics current president Ho Mun Cheong. PHOTO: ST FILE

Infighting among exco members could see snap election less than halfway into term

Singapore Athletics (SA) is set for a leadership reshuffle, less than a year after current president Ho Mun Cheong led his team to a landslide victory at the election of office bearers last June.

The Straits Times understands that several members of the management committee intend to call for an extraordinary general meeting (EOGM) next month, when the election of new leaders will be on the agenda. According to the SA constitution, an EOGM can be called "upon the signed requisition of 10 affiliated members". The association has 21 affiliates.

The management committee comprises 14 elected members. Ho's team swept 12 of the 14 positions last year.

Yesterday, Ho declined to comment about the possible election. He told ST: "We want to concentrate on the Singapore Open (on April 27-28). We want to do a good job, make it successful and show all the affiliates what we can do."

Lawyer Edmond Pereira, who ran for the SA presidency last year but lost to Ho by two votes, said he would stand for election only if invited. He said: "I'm not going to stand. But I will offer myself. If they think I can do the job and cure the ills in the association, then I'm ready for it."

The bid to call a snap election is believed to have been prompted by numerous disagreements over a myriad of issues, which has torn the executive committee (exco) apart.

  • Past SAA elections and disputes

    JUNE 2010
    Oil trader Tang Weng Fei ends the reign of Loh Lin Kok, who had helmed the Singapore Athletic Association (SAA) for all but two years since 1982.

    FEBRUARY 2014
    Tang suspends two vice-presidents - Loh Chan Pew and Steven Lee - for undermining the authority of the executive committee.

    MAY 2014
    Loh Chan Pew accuses SAA general manager and multiple SEA Games gold medallist James Wong of submitting excessive mileage claims, and for a conflict of interest over the selection of his wife Jana to a coaching course in Indonesia. A board of inquiry cleared Wong of any wrongdoing.

    JUNE 2014
    Loh Chan Pew teams up with former national runner Sng Sze Hiang to contest the SAA elections against a team led by Tang. Tang's team won nine of 14 contested positions, while Loh was re-elected.

    JUNE 2016
    Tang announced he would not be seeking re-election owing to in-fighting in the executive committee. Former honorary secretary Ho Mun Cheong, backed by Loh Chan Pew, leads a team at the rebranded Singapore Athletics' election of office bearers. They sweep 12 of the 14 seats in the management committee.

    APRIL 2017
    Reports of in-fighting in the executive committee plague the association.

The exco is made up of the president, three vice-presidents, honorary secretary, honorary assistant secretary and honorary treasurer.

A member of the management committee said: "It seems that the internal conflict among the exco is getting out of hand.

"Some members had questioned the integrity of the president in the presence of the management committee members."

He also claimed that there had been "no room for proper and mature discussions" during meetings.

Some members of the exco have also met officials from local sport governing body Sport Singapore without the president to discuss the sport's fortunes.

One issue which has polarised the leadership is the appointment of former national women's floorball coach Jaime Cheong as general manager. There are questions raised over her suitability for the role.

In a meeting agenda seen by The Straits Times, another issue was apparent "unilateral actions" by the president, such as the convening of meetings on short notice. There is also a dispute over the appointment of the team manager for August's SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur.

The leadership turmoil aside, it is believed that SportSG has also withheld funding from SA since July last year. The association has been dipping into its reserves and is in talks with SportSG to work out the funding documents it needs to submit.

On the internal strife and funding issue, a SportSG spokesman said: "There was a commitment to build a more cohesive athletics fraternity when (Ho) and his team came on board. We hope that the leadership will be able to work through the issues.

"The budget for athletics has been approved since last year and we are awaiting the submission of some documents before disbursing the funds. The funding includes the agreed support for the new technical director Volker Herrmann."

It remains to be seen how this saga will affect SA's preparations for the SEA Games. At the last edition in Singapore, the team won three golds, three silvers and three bronzes on home soil - its best performance in more than a decade.

The infighting is the latest in a long line of disputes which has plagued the association.

Before the last election, former president Tang Weng Fei said he would not stand for re-election, citing disunity in the exco as a key reason for his stepping aside.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 18, 2017, with the headline 'Turmoil within S'pore athletics'. Print Edition | Subscribe