Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Azalina Othman Said made a clarion call for the revival of the club system in Malaysia to help elevate sport standards in the country. But setting up and running a club can be a tedious and harrowing experience. STARSPORTS's RAJES PAUL looks at how to form a club bar all the bureaucratic restraints.
PETALING JAYA: After announcing his retirement from wushu two years ago, it was a surprise to see World Championships silver medallist Oh Poh Soon at the National Sports Council (NSC) vicinity in Bukit Jalil.
But, no, he is not making a comeback nor thinking of becoming a coach.
The man, who had served the country for 10 years and even won a medal at the 1998 Bangkok Asian Games, was at Bukit Jalil on a business trip. He has set up his own club - Wushu Sports Equipment Marketing.
But unlike many, who have registered their clubs under the Registrar of Societies, whereby they are tied by many rules and regulations, the 29-year-old Poh Soon had listed his club under the Registrar of Business.
And his reason is simple – to stay out of politics normally associated with clubs.
“I was contemplating on what to do after my career as a wushu exponent. I still loved the sport and I needed money to support myself. But after 10 years in the national team, I know the politics. And I do not want to get caught up with it. I just hate it,” said Poh Soon.
“Then, a friend of mine suggested that I should form a club under the Registrar of Business. It was so simple. I paid RM60 for registration fee. The only requirement is that I have to show my accounts for the income tax purpose every year.
“I run the show (sole proprietorship). I do not have to elect any office bearers. I do not have to hold an AGM (Annual General Meeting). I will not have to be answerable to anyone and I do not have to worry about pleasing anyone.
“All I do now is coach my young athletes and get paid for it. Currently, I have about 30 athletes from different schools. Fees are imposed. I can pass on my knowledge and help them move up - ultimately into the national team one day.
“Fortunately for me, the national body supports this. I get the money and I have the satisfaction of seeing the youngsters making the grade.”
Poh Soon is among the handful of people, who have opted for registration of clubs under business.
Besides wushu, the other martial art sports like taekwondo, karate and other sports like badminton, football, gymnastics and swimming are the popular sports that have also ventured along the same path.
And the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) secretary general Datuk Sieh Kok Chi believed that this latest trend of having sports bodies or clubs registered under business, would be in line with the aspiration of the Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Azalina Othman Said to develop the sports through reviving the club systems.
“Many are not interested to form clubs because they are bound by so many regulations. Just look at the number of association and clubs de-registered by the Sports Commissioner. People are just afraid,” said Kok Chi.
In November, six state associations - Perlis Women Hockey Association, Kedah Women Hockey Association, Kedah Cycling Association, Perlis Chinese Martial Arts, Dragon and Lion Dance Federation and Malacca Bowling Association - were deregistered for violating the 1997 Sports Development Act.
Recently, the Malaysian National Cycling Federation (MNCF), Malaysia Taekwondo Association (MTA) and Pahang Hockey Association were hauled up by the Sports Commissioner for alleged irregularities. And currently there are 20 more bodies being investigated.
“But, establishing clubs as a business under the Registrar of Business is easy. The members will not be open to abuse or unfair practice. But if they are abused, the members can always quit. In order to ensure that their “business” do well, the owners will strive to provide the best. If they have a lousy coach, the athletes moves to another club or centre.”
However, Kok Chi believed that clubs registered under business should not hold any voting right.
“I strongly advocate this (registering sports bodies, clubs under the Registrar of Business). But the problem arises when some of the “businessmen” want to have the cake and eat it as well. The profit-making clubs should not be given the right to vote. It can open the door for money politics, which will put us back to square one. But those non-profit making bodies should have the right to vote,” he said.
“The non-profit making bodies are the ones that are restricted by the Societies Act 1966 or the Sports Development Act 1997.”
To ensure the effectiveness of profit-making clubs registered under business, Kok Chi also said that the National Sports Association (NSA) should allow the club members to be kept on their toes through regular participation in competitions.
“The constitution says that only the affiliated members of the NSA's or states are currently allowed to take part in official competitions. Clubs are independent bodies. I believe, that clubs should be given equal opportunities to compete. This is the best way to keep the club-system going. Some NSA make the exception by allowing these clubs to compete but some do not. Some fear that the clubs would do better than the NSA affiliates,” said Kok Chi.
“Probably, it is the time for the NSA to look at amending their constitutions. They have the power to do so.”
If NSA are bold enough to make changes, then probably, more passionate people like Poh Soon will come to the fore to develop sports at the lower level and be part of the revival of the club system.