Zii Jia and BAM find win-win situation over ‘image rights’

Setting priorities right: Lee Zii Jia re-affirms that when he steps on the court, he plays for Malaysia. — AFP

PETALING JAYA: It’s hard being a professional shuttler in Malaysia. Just ask Lee Zii Jia.

Yesterday, national No. 1 Zii Jia had to re-affirm that when he steps on the court, he plays for Malaysia. But as a pro, he has an obligation to all his personal sponsors as his livelihood depends on it.

That according to Team LZJ, is the ‘’image rights’’ that they are trying to uphold.

Zii Jia was one of the five singles players named for the Finals from April 27-May 5 in Chengdu, China, together with Ng Tze Yong, Leong Jun Hao, Cheam June Wei and Justin Hoh.

The doubles players selected were Aaron Chia-Soh Wooi Yik, Goh Sze Fei-Nur Izzuddin Rumsani and reserve Mohd Haikal Nazri.

World No. 11 Zii Jia, however, will be the only professional shuttler who will be compensated by the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) to wear the national jersey.

And to underline his gratitude to the BAM, Zii Jia thanked them for having faith in him after being named for the Finals.

“Thank you for your continued trust in me,” said Zii Jia via his Instagram as soon as the BAM announced the final list on Friday.

“The eight letters of my beloved country’s name (Malaysia) far outweigh the five letters of my name that is on my jersey.”

The national body and Team LZJ had to come up with a win-win situation as both parties had obligations to different sponsors.

And paying a compensation for Zii Jia to wear the national jersey seemed to be the best way to tackle the delicate issue.

Team LZJ said: “Zii Jia’s desire to represent Malaysia is never in question. It has always been yes, but an opportunity arose from both parties to advance the sporting practice of ‘image rights’ in Malaysian sport, which is an important aspect for a professional athlete.”

“The compensation... pertains to exactly this image rights.

“While we’re proud to serve the country, we also value the importance of image rights that is essential for the livelihood of a professional athlete that is independent from the association.

“We’re glad that BAM recognise this and are supportive of the existence of professional athletes.

“It is our hope that we can all see this as a betterment of the sport not only for us but for the future of pros who represent the country.

“Let’s focus on creating something special at the Thomas Cup Finals.”

Earlier, BAM’s head of administration Michelle Chai said their decision was an unprecedented one that was needed in order to send the best team to the Finals.

“Zii Jia is committed to play for the country but the compensation is necessary for him to wear the national jersey, which has our commercial partners,” said Michelle.

“Zia Jia is no longer part of BAM and we’ve to be fair to him.

“We have never done this before but I believe it is the best decision that works for both sides,” she added. THE SQUAD

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