PUTRAJAYA: Eight sports have been identified by the government to receive special aid to achieve excellence on the world stage.
Badminton, bowling, gymnastics, aquatics, hockey, squash and athletics were identified by the National Sports Council (NSC) as having the potential to excel at the world level.
Football has also been included in the list because of the mass appeal and support the sport enjoyed.
Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, who chairs the Cabinet Committee for the Development of Sports, said that besides funds, the government would also have direct involvement in the development of the eight sports.
The committee, which includes 14 other ministers, held its first meeting here yesterday.
Najib said that the time had come for Malaysia to concentrate on sports that could win honours for the country in major events.
The Deputy Prime Minister added that there were 46 sports registered with the Sports Commissioner's office and the committee was unable to develop all of them at one go.
“We will start with these eight sports. The NSC identified seven of them based on their ability to succeed while football was included at today's meeting because of its mass appeal,” said Najib.
He added that there were four main areas in which support would be provided for the development of the eight sports – employment of professional staff from administrators to coaches, finance, infrastructure for training centres, and to develop accountability.
“The sports associations have to sign a contract with the government, which requires them to follow the guidelines set and to abide by the decisions.
“This is going to be a joint effort. We are not taking over the development of the sports. But instead of just giving the associations financial aid as we had done previously, we now want to have a direct hand in the process.
”It involves the people's money and we also want transparency in the dealings. The associations cannot do as they wish without any consultation,” said Najib.
The eight sports associations welcomed the decision, saying it would boost their efforts to produce world champions.
Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Azalina Othman Said said that her ministry was not going to take over the administration of the associations and there was no fear of the sports losing their autonomy.
“It may take five or 10 years ... there is actually no time frame. The process could be a long one but we are prepared to ride it. Later, when we go into phase two, other sports will be in our scheme of things.”
At the meeting yesterday, the committee also adopted the blueprint for the development of sports in the country, which is based on the successful Australian system.
It was also decided at the meeting that various incentives be given to students, who excelled in sports.
Najib said athletes in sports schools would now be able to defer their examinations for a year if they were involved in major competitions that year.
“Likewise in universities, credits should be given when undergraduates were involved in sports,'' he added.