PETALING JAYA: A holiday abroad, all expenses paid, an allowance to boot, with sightseeing tours, also all paid for, a lovely hotel and grand meals whenever you want. Sounds good? Go be a sports official.
These, actually, are only some of the demands that some sports bodies have made as they prepare for the Vietnam SEA Games official website. Apparently, this has been the practice for years but the advent of the Internet had finally allowed others to see for themselves how bad the situation is.
And things get worse when these sports officials want to be kept away from athletes and National Olympic Council (NOC)-appointed officials.
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC), for instance, want the hosts to provide internal transport not only for training and matches but also for sightseeing for their technical officials during the Vietnam SEA Games from Dec 5-13.
There is more in the AFC “we-want” list. They have asked for accommodation in a good hotel, away from athletes and national officials; suitable meals three times a day; adequate laundry services; refreshments during training and refreshments and snacks at the stadiums during matches.
On top of that, they have asked for the hosts for return air passage, and daily allowances as per AFC rates.
The South East Asian Taekwondo Union (SEATU) wants US$100 to be paid for each of their arbitration members daily.
The South East Asia Wrestling Federation (SEAWF) have asked the organising committee to provide international return first class air tickets for the IWF technical delegates and competition secretary.
Other sports however, have been more accommodating. They have only stated that their technical officials may not live in the Games Village but have asked the organising committee to bear the cost of their accommodation, food and local transport.
Sports may once have been an amateur affair, with volunteers working hard for little compensation. But now, it has grown into big business. And the demands are getting harder to meet.
Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) secretary Datuk Sieh Kok Chi says that these are sad days for sport and admitted that the trend was worsening.
“I have seen the SEA Games grow from 1965, when it was first held in Kuala Lumpur as the third SEAP Games to the 21st SEA Games, again at Kuala Lumpur. There have been many changes, not all good.
Expenses have shot up so high. The main objective of the SEA Games, which is to improve the standards of the athletes, in terms of Asian or world records, have not kept pace with the growth in expenditure,” said Kok Chi.
“I hate to say it and it will be hurting to some but I have seen my good friends, who were once full-blooded volunteers, getting spoilt by the environment. I saw it happen in Brunei (1999) and KL Games and now I see it taking place in Vietnam.
“It has gone from bad to worse.
“Sports bodies wish to appoint as many international referees, judges, delegates as possible. But with the technology we have now and with all the computerised system, I wonder why we need so many people.”
In the 21st SEA Games for example, there was a total of 180 international delegates, referees, judges from outside of the SEA Games countries for 32 sports. In addition, there were 438 technical officials from the SEA countries. Of the 180 international delegates, referees, judges, the maximum number of people were from football. There was a total of 27 officials (17 for men's football and 10 for the women).
Shooting had 19 officials, athletics another 19, boxing 15 and equestrian 12.
The number of officials have increased for the Vietnam Games, and with it, the budget.
Kok Chi pointed out that the same faces usually get nominated for the multi-sport Games with their perks increasing.
Kok Chi urged the International Federations (IF) to standardise the rules for all sports.
“The minor sports and cash-strapped sports are begging to come in and anything goes for them. Some sports call the shots because they have the ability to do so. The IF should have uniform rules for all,” he said.
“We are not denying anyone of their allowances but there should be a limit to everything. If some sports bodies want to make financial arrangement, they should not include it in the technical handbooks but deal with the hosts directly.”
The Goodwill Games in Brisbane last year was a good example of a multi-sport event that was organised free of all frills.
The focus should be on true sporting spirit and achievement. The money can wait.