A PRESIDENT of a national sports association arrested by the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission (MACC), then a civil war with multiple exchanges of police reports among Malaysia Canoe Association (MASCA) officials, both events which followed turmoil over contests for top positions several national bodies in the past three months alone.

“The Sports Commissioner should pay attention to all of this, while the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) should also look at what is happening to their affiliates,” says former National Sports Council (NSC) director general Datuk Seri Zolkples Embong.

Irked by the sports headlines continuously being dominated by turmoil and scandal within national sports associations and sports-related personalities such as the arrests in Puchong last month which involved politicians and a sports equipment supplier with close links to the NSC and the Youth & Sports Ministry, Zolkples is calling for preventive measures to be imposed.

“We have several bad cultures which are affecting sports and they are not the doing of the athletes. The athletes are there to perform and to be given all the support in order to achieve their true potential. But with all of these scandals involving officials, you tell me if the athletes are not affected,” said Zolkples.

“On big problem is the greed of some officials, they want to hog the headlines and are after positions. Not satisfied with being in control of one association, there is a growing trend of such characters wanting to be presidents of multiple associations. When they gain control of all the associations they want, they then can’t focus their attention on all of them and thus the sports suffer, but they will play all the politics to remain in control.

“There are even instances where such people, who do not perform in one sports association, and being rejected, then finding their way into an association of another sport. As athletes, people usually are good at one sport and their whole lives are dedicated to that one sport. Are you telling me, that these officials are so good that there is nobody else who can lead all these different sports?”

Zolkples did not mention names, but it was clear that his grouses were about the recent spat within Masca, whose embattled president Megat D. Shahriman Zaharuddin is at war with his executive committee, while he also holds position as president of the Malaysian Paralympic Council (MPC) and the Kuala Lumpur Hockey Association (KLHA).

Megat, however is not the only one to hold top position in multiple sporting bodies, with OCM president Datuk Seri Norza Zakaria also helming the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) and is the president of the Putra Polo Club.
Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) president Datuk Seri Subahan Kamal is also the deputy president of the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM), whose other deputy president Datuk Yusof Mahadi is also the deputy president of the Melaka United Football Association (MUSA). who themselves are saddled with issues of non-payment of players’ salaries.

“The other problem is the types who are holding on to positions and do so long after their expiry date. They are even allowed to do so despite clearly not performing,” said Zolkples, in relation to the 78-year old president of a sports association arrested by the MACC last month, who has held on to his position for 31 years.

“These types of leaders are clearly not in it to contribute to the sport. They are there for the perks, the ego trip of having power and eventually they have their own agendas which benefit themselves and sometimes their families,” said Zolkples.

Zolkples who retired after the 2017 Sea Games in Kuala Lumpur, called for the Sports Commissioner’s Office to be aware of the scandals and ongoings in NSAs and take preventive, even punitive measures to correct them as provisioned under the Sports Development Act 1997.

“There are provisions for even the Youth and Sports Minister to intervene if such matters get out of hand, which clearly in these cases mentioned they have. The Act gives the Sports Commissioner the power to safeguard the welfare of sports and the athletes, which is paramount,” said Zolkples.

“Thus, the Sports Commissioner should not just be satisfied with these associations meeting their bureaucratic resposnibilities such as submitting annual reports. They should not just be waiting for matters to get out of hand and act on complaints,” said Zolkples, who was involved in the drawing up the legislation in 1997, under then Youth and Sports Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.

“There was a star rating drawn up with the OCM to rate the NSAs, but now this has just gone silent. This would be one way to ensure the NSAs buck up and raise their standards and take care of the welfare of their sports,” said Zolkples, adding that in the initial stage even the Act was rejected by the OCM, citing their reduced powers.

“The Act is there for the Sports Commissioner to ensure that NSAs are managing their sports well, including their finances, as well as conducting programs and activities for the development of their sports. This is what is stated in their constitutions, but has been forgotten and the majority of the NSAs are now relying solely on government funding and programmes under the NSC!” quipped Zolkples.

“The OCM too should take heed of all these controversies and politics involving their affiliates and I would suggest that it is time to review the constitutions of the NSAs and look at measures such as to limit terms in office, performance-based selection for office bearers and an overall more professional approach in keeping with the times.

“They should do without all those traditions which are no longer relevant and are obstructive to the development of sport. Officials should act in benefit of the sport and not for themselves, nor in view of votes in the annual general meeting. I heard the OCM have appointed a new chief operating officer on a salary in the tens of thousands. So, there is no excuse to transform the entire operations into a more professional one,” said Zolkples.