6 local sports that took the spotlight – for all the wrong reasons
by Wan Ting Koh
THIS year may have been a turbulent one for politics, but for the local sports fraternity, the year has been no less fraught with highs and lows.
No less than six sports have made the spotlight for reasons other than sporting achievements. In fact, some made the headlines for in-fighting, others for bad blood between management and players, and yet others for possible criminal activities.
Talk about bad sportsmanship – off the field.
1. Table Tennis
The Singapore Table Tennis Association (STTA) axed two of its most illustrious players this year. One due to disciplinary issues and the other – according to an official statement – due to long-terms plans to inject new blood into the team.
National player Li Hu was sacked in October after an STTA disciplinary investigation found that Li, whose top achievements include winning a men’s doubles gold with veteran Gao Ning at the 2015 SEA Games, had continually violated house rules.
The 28-year-old brought his girlfriend to his dormitory on several occasions even after being warned against it. The Hubei native also has a whole host of other disciplinary issues and is currently assisting with investigations by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau for his mother’s alleged bribery attempt.
Barely a day after Li Hu was cut from the team, national paddler Feng Tianwei too was dropped. The three-time Olympic Medallist was axed from the STTA, with the association announcing that Feng didn’t fit into STTA’s “plans for rejuvenation”. That was the official reason.
Unofficially, sources alleged the 28-year-old had been fired for misconduct, ill-discipline and disrespect. The paddler was said to have had disagreements with the association over prize money and to have made false claims. STTA’s deputy vice president David Sim took to his own Facebook page to call Feng a “disgrace to the nation” and “bad egg” in comments with users. Read our story here and here.
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The fate of the Formula One (F1) Singapore Grand Prix after next year’s race is hanging in the balance as its chief executive Bernie Ecclestone said in November that Singapore might not extend its deal past next year.
That was not all he said though. The 86-year-old Briton added: “Singapore was suddenly more than just an airport to fly to or from somewhere. Now they believe they have reached their goal and they do not want a grand prix any more.”
Reaching its goal might not be the only reason Singapore wouldn’t ink another deal for the F1. The race has also been suffering from dropping ticket sales, with this year’s numbers the lowest since F1 came to Singapore in 2008. This year’s grand prix also experienced a 15 per cent drop in attendance.
Mr Ecclestone later claimed he was misquoted, saying that he is hopeful discussions on keeping the race in Singapore will be “sorted out”.
Perhaps the most public example of long-term internal strife within a governing body. A host of problems have plagued the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) for years, the most recent being Singapore’s defeat in the AFF Suzuki Cup by Indonesia.
Said to be the worst-ever showing at the Suzuki Cup, the Lion’s performance resulted in netizens calling for the termination of the team’s head coach, whose strategy was to play on the defensive. However, the coach was only appointed in May this year.
A TODAY report said that the Lion’s plight only highlights the problems with Singapore’s footballing ecosystem, especially in the area of domestic football. Criticisms have been levelled at FAS for its neglect of grassroots development, with the lower leagues getting its funds cut even though the FAS budget is burgeoning.
To top off the bad showing, a brawl broke out this October during an FAS-organised tournament, interrupting a match between Balestier United Recreation Club and Singapore Armed Forces Sports Association. The match was never completed.
4. Track and Field
In June, a coach was suspended after allegations of molest towards three female athletes. The governing body for track and field, Singapore Athletics (SA), said that on one of the occasions, the coach allegedly improperly touched an athlete during a session working with gym weights. A police report was filed.
In a separate August report, SA’s vice-president for competitions organising Loh Chan Pew took a leave of absence to assist with police investigations. His move came after a police report was filed against him for allegedly molesting a former national athlete in 2010. This happened just 38 days after Mr Loh was elected unopposed to the position at the SA’s Annual General Meeting in June.
That’s not all the problems SA faces. Earlier in December, it was reported that SA could lose its funding for the hire of a key secretariat staff, general manager Jaime Cheong, as it did not consult Sport Singapore on the appointment.
Image from Singapore Shooting Association Facebook page
The Singapore Rifle Association (SRA) was booted from the national shooting body, the Singapore Shooting Association (SSA) last week, after the association’s three other members voted at the extraordinary general meeting. The SSA said that the SRA “no longer has the best interest of the shooting fraternity at heart, and adjudges it as an organisation that is not in good standing with SSA”.
The SSA added that the SRA consistently expressed disagreement on key issues and “persistently undermined the SSA’s work as the national shooting authority” over the past 18 months.
Some six months before it was expelled, the SRA filed a High Court suit against the SSA over alleged breaches of the SSA constitution and for attempting to suspend its privileges. The SRA is also taking SSA’s president Michael Vaz, to court for defamation.
Image from The Hit Factory website
Last month, a private baseball facility shut down abruptly, leaving 71 children who had paid for classes, and staff, high and dry. Called The Hit Factory (THF), the facility had a dispute with the Singapore Baseball and Softball Association (SBSA).
According to parents, emails from THF said that it had no viable way of staying in business without a facility as it could not sell programmes for next year. THF added that it would not able to refund the fees of approximately $200,000 for six months of unfulfilled programmes. It had to declare bankruptcy after raking up $20,000 in debt.
When contacted by TODAY, one of THF’s owners, Mr Michael Froemke, blamed the closure to their dispute with the SBSA. THF was informed by SBSA in September that it would have to leave the field by the end of this year as Sport Singapore would be reclaiming the venue.
Even though SBSA told THF that the association had been granted an extension till March 31, THF said that its weekend lease hours would be significantly reduced, so it was unable to continue.
Featured image by Sean Chong.
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