TAN SRI DATO’ SRI (DR.) MOHAMAD NORZA ZAKARIA
PRESIDENT OF THE OLYMPIC COUNCIL OF MALAYSIA (OCM)
In this maiden column, on behalf of the OCM, I wish to record my appreciation to the newly-appointed Minister of Youth and Sports, Y.B. Hannah Yeoh, for gracing and officiating the 203rd OCM Executive Council meeting at the PETRONAS Akademi Badminton Malaysia (ABM) on Tuesday, 20th December 2022.
With the appointment of a new Cabinet to take the country to greater heights, it is an opportune time to hit the reset button.
In my opening address, I shared my concerns on the instability of the Government which has impacted the sports fraternity. Y.B. Hannah is the fourth Minister of Youth and Sports since I first took over the OCM Presidency from Y.A.M. Tunku Tan Sri Imran Ibni Almarhum Tuanku Ja’afar in 2018.
The OCM wishes to thank Y.B. Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, Y.B. Dato’ Sri Reezal Merican Naina Merican and Y.B. Dato’ Seri Ahmad Faizal Dato’ Azumu who led the Ministry with their own leadership style.
The ever-changing political landscape in the country threatens to destabilise the high-performance culture of our elite programme. The sporting fraternity should be free from political adversity. The programmes that have been set in place for national athletes should not be affected by the changes at Federal level.
There must be a structure for sports that is free from political adversity to ensure that the medium and long-term pathways are not disrupted by any changes in the political arena.
In my speech, I reiterated my call for the tax laws in the country be reviewed. We cannot be bound by archaic laws which hampers the way sports is being funded in Malaysia today.
As the umbrella body for the National Sports Associations (NSAs), the OCM has proposed for a long-term funding, with a four-year cycle based on the Olympics as opposed to today’s practice of relying on the annual budget announced by the Government.
Earlier I proposed before, this the creation of a Sports Unity Tax, where the private sector or individuals be given increased tax exemption or incentives as a way of enticing them to invest in sports.
Since the budget for sports appears to be shrinking year by year, the Sports Unity Tax will reduce pressure on the Government to allocate funding and instead create a model where all sectors – government and private – work closely for a sustainable sports industry.
For every RM 1 allocated and spent, the sports fraternity need to know the exact amount is spent for the athletes and the sports.
Out of every Ringgit spent, maybe half of it is needed for bureaucratic needs.
We need to acknowledge the fact that the days of the NSAs obtaining funding purely from the government alone are gone.
We need the private sector to come on board in a big way, much like the Rakan Sukan Programme initiated in 1993 by the Ministry to encourage them to work not only in terms of the returns on investments but also as corporate social partners to the NSAs.
I also raised the idea of an expanded pension scheme for our athletes not only as a safety net for our athletes who have contributed a lot but as a form of a long-term reward long after they have called it a day.
The OCM and the National Sports Council (NSC) met with representatives from the private sector in May 2022 to gain a better understanding of how annuity programmes and insurance schemes are run as part of their research in preparing a paper to be presented to the Cabinet.
I am also pleased to announce that the OCM would be establishing our own Athletes’ Education Fund to replace the Tan Sri Alex Lee Athletes’ Education Fund which will be managed entirely by the family of the late Tan Sri Alex Lee, a former OCM Vice-President.
We are looking to launch the fund this year after the mechanism, guidelines and criteria are determined by the OCM Executive Board.
We look forward to a fruitful and successful 2023. Happy Chinese New Year as we hop into a potentially challenging year.