Friday, March 22, 2013

Ignite the Flame of Sports

The below is a copy of the email I sent to the Hon'ble Acting Minister Chan Chun Sing

Dear Mr Chan,

I have been contemplating on writing this email for several weeks now. The only reason why I kept putting it off, is because I feel that one should let others do their job. Especially, when highly qualified people are appointed to the job. I did not want to come across as a griping netizen complaining for the sake of it. However, I have been reading your interviews and I get the impression that you are a person who genuinely wants to make a difference to galvanise the community. As such, I feel that by taking the liberty to send in this feedback, I am actually doing the right thing for our community as well.

Im sending in this feedback with regards to the 2030 Sports Masterplan that your ministry has drawn up. On a personal level, I am a huge sporting enthusiast. I watch a wide range of sports, enjoy playing a variety of sports on a recreational level and have taken part in many amateur-level soccer competitions. In fact, we have our own amateur soccer team, that even boasts a Youth wing. So, this Sports Masterplan is of utmost interest to me. However, I do realise that playing sports on an amateur level is not the same as galvanising the sports fraternity. Hence, I will try to write this in an objective manner.


Sports has always been an activity of uniting the community by the community for the community. As such, I believe that any strategies that we put forward to galvanise sports must involve the community.

I propose a 2-pronged strategy. 

1) Promote sports as an ideal recreational activity. This i believe, your ministry has been doing a fantastic job, and the gains made must be continued. I applaud your ministry for taking the right steps,
ie) making booking of facilities accessible through SSC, creating many avenues for mass participation through PA

2) Make sports a viable career. This area sir, is where I feel that Singapore as a society is seriously lagging. If the bulk of our professional table-tennis players are all new citizens imported from the talent scheme, then I don't believe that it is a lack of talent sir. I believe, that it is so because Singaporean families do not see sports as a viable career. And maybe rightfully so. Our young local S-league players are paid miserly contracts of less than $2000 and they have to buy their own boots. Contrast this situation to our neighbour like Indonesia, where players are paid in US dollars, given accomodation as well as vehicles, the situation can not be more extreme. But why this disparity sir? This i will explain in the next section.


Sports has evolved to a stage, where any strategy will fail if you do not engage the community, if you do not get the community involved either, as participants or as audience. However, in our fast-paced world, it is impractical at this stage to expect people to throng the stadiums or halls to watch a netball game, even if our Singapore national netball team are pretty good in the region. This is where I believe the power of TV will be crucial. Bringing on the dimension of broadcasting will create interest in the sports. It will then bring in the advertising money, which can be rechannelled to building more infrastructures for the sport. Our current strategy of enticing interest in sports through Singapore Pools gambling tickets is outdated, dear Sir. I propose another 2-pronged approach on bringing in the TV money to galvanise the sporting fraternity.

1) For people to watch something on TV, they have to get involved. And it is difficult to ask someone to feel involved with a bunch of croatians and nigerians playing in our Sleague. Even if you were to telecast it free, no one will be tempted to watch. I suggest, that we have to go down to the grassroots. Broadcast matches, that involve our schools. The A'divisions, the Inter-Varsity Games, the B-divisions. Showcase matches, that involved someone's son, someone's niece, someone's brother and sister. This i feel sir, is a far more effective strategy to get people to watch the sports on TV. As the viewership increases, advertisement money will surely come in. When that happens, you achieve 2 goals. a) Interest in the Sports b) Money to be channeled to develop

2) Currently our free-to-air channels are showing several imported programmes. Some of this can be replaced by showing these events that I mentioned above. Very similar to how the US promotes its university basketball, which then acts as a platform for talented young sportsmen to make the jump to go into professional sports teams. By stimulating interest in the grassroots level, and promoting entry by locals into the sports teams, I then feel that locals will be more tempted to watch the sports at the professional level. This will turn spinoff, into several of our little-known local leagues, like the netball league, bowling league being shown on TV. Again sir, this is an effective way to build the sports industry.


Currently Sir, there are 400 over amateur soccer teams, playing regular weekend 11-aside football from 9-am to 5-pm every Saturday and Sunday. There are a further 100 teams taking part in regular 5-aside weekday futsal leagues. That is over 4500 amateur footballers playing weekly football. If you were to draw a study to compare the numbers on how many of them actually get the opportunity to represent a professional club, Sir, you will be dismayed. There is no proper talent-scout programme or a channel to give talented players a chance. The money would rather been spend on marquee names. Such a strategy sir, will not lead the sports fraternity to grow. In fact, sir, it will destroy the sports fraternity which can be seen by the state of our S-league. There is a simple reason why our Lions 12 boys get more support. And its not just national pride sir, it is the fact that these boys are our brothers and friends and people who have played with us. And sir, if you were to look at other sports, the situation is even more worse. Back in PRe-U, i had several friends who were talented athletes, netballers, rugby players. But as they grew up, they had very little avenues to pursue their interests. Even if they did, it was down to their own initiatives, rather than a platform being provided to them. Again sir, I will not just make a mere complain but I propose a strategy.

SSC has to take a more active governing role while encouraging private league operators to act in a uniform manner. Now, all the private league vendors are acting on their own and are profit-minded, rightfully so. I propose for the SSC to make infrastructure more readily available to these vendors, eliminate the red-tape involved and bring them in as part of the discussion to see how we can unify the schedules and timelines so that we can have a well-run amateur fraternity. For this part, SSC should not take a running role, but more of a guidance role while letting the private vendors communicate and synergise their efforts. The platform is already well-set for soccer, hence it will be easier to carry this out for football and then roll on to the other sports.

Once again sir. I hope I have not come across as contemptuous or radical. What I have proposed are simple strategies to calibrate the plans already put into place. When you came out to talk about the 2030 Masterplan, I detected an earnest enthusiasm in you Sir. But you are a minister and it is impossible for you to always be in the ground and observe every intricate details. And thus as a participant of sports, it is my duty to feedback the situation to you as well as provide what I feel are useful improvements to galvanise the sporting fraternity. When the day comes, that Singapore has the most vibrant and effective sports scene in South-East Asia, Which by current standards is a tough order, I will be a much satisfied person. The road is tough, but if we achieve this together, the benefits are countless. Thank you.

Yours Sincerely,
Vicknesh Rajamohan
Mentor of an Amateur Soccer team named Team Kamikaze,
Sports lover since the age of 5

Update to this story: The Acting Minister for Community, Culture and Youth had emailed me his reply as Sports is under the purview of his ministry now. I am unable to reproduce his reply in whole as it is Restricted but the gist of his reply was that his ministry was looking at working closely with all the stakeholders and welcomes this feedback that will help his Ministry in implementing the plans to galvanise the sports.

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