Last week the Malaysian National Cycling Federation (MNCF) president Datuk Abu Samah Abdul Wahab was picked up by the authorities on alleged corruption.
Whether Abu Samah would be charged or not would very much depend on the ongoing investigations. While some claim that the investigation was long time coming, rumours in the grapevine is that it is just a distraction to divert attention away from a recent major scandal in the sporting arena.
That aside, one constant in the whole episode is that Abu Samah has been able to hold on to his position as the president of the MNCF for a good three decades.
This is not an anomaly as far as how Malaysian sports associations elect their top office bearers. Take a deeper look at the administration of Malaysian sports associations and you would notice a stranglehold by certain groups on key positions over a long period.
Either the same person or persons keep control of the organisation or the outgoing leadership would ensure their anointed pick is selected to take over the reins.
This is one of the reasons why good governance in sports associations comes into question at a regular interval.
Athletes are dropped like a hot potato when they fail to deliver but administrators continue with no accountability or care.
Take the Le Tour de Langkawi (LTdL), that would be celebrating its silver jubilee when the race starts later this week, as an example. Only one World Tour team, NTT Pro Cycling, has confirmed participation in the race, when the minimum requirement for the tour to remain in the International Cycling Union (UCI) Professional Series (ProSeries) is to have three.
If after 25-years the MNCF and millions spent each year, the event is unable to meet the minimum requirement, who should shoulder the blame?
Look at the number of sports associations that could not even deliver at the SEA Games, the lowest ranked multi-sports event in the region. Yet many leaders with no inkling on how to develop and nurture sporting talents continue without any culpability.
While the Sports Ministry and its related sports agencies are more concerned on medals and monetary related issues, ineffective leadership in sports associations are allowed to fester.
Not to say that the Ministry itself does not have leadership issues of their own, with the Ministry official caught in a drug party recently and their appointee to head the Stadium Board embroiled in a bribery scandal.
Limiting the term of sports leaders was among the ideas bandied around in the past. While it may have its merits, its biggest disadvantage was that it may also victimize credible leaders.
India is among the countries that have been trying to limit the term of sports leadership as well as putting an age limit to the top office bearers.
The restrictions are not being accepted and have come under major resistance from the Indian sports fraternity. It is also seen as going against the international norms and rules. To expect the Malaysian sports to accept the same would also be foolhardy.
The Malaysian Sports Commissioners Office have been looking into limiting the term of key office bearers and have even conducted discussions with stakeholders on the issue before.
If such restrictions are implemented, it also begs the question as to why it should not be implemented for all type of organisations, including political parties? Surely, one cannot say that problems in leadership are only confined to sports associations.
The current structure of sports associations is among the reasons for the continued malaise in Malaysian sports leadership.
The state affiliation system long practiced by national sports association meant that keeping control of national associations is a cinch. Take care of approximately eight state associations and you can control the national body.
And if the executive members of the state association, as is mostly the case, are subservient to its own state presidents, one needs to take care of only eight people to get elected as the top honcho.
There are associations with state affiliates, which practically hibernate for the whole year and come alive only during the general meetings and even more animated during the election year.
The loyalty of the states is also ensured with goodies in the form of positions as well as overseas trips. One national association recently saw it fit to being a large entourage of members overseas in the guise of supporting the national team, just before the association’s elections were held. As expected the status quo was maintained at the elections.
There is no rule that demands that national sports associations must only have state affiliates. What would be the effect if districts and clubs are given mandatory voting rights?
One obvious advantage would be that it would make elections of office bearers more democratic and much more difficult to fix.
Another issue that is often brought up is the lack of former athletes managing sports associations. While some associations do try to stifle the role of former athletes in taking up administrative roles, it is also a fallacy to think that being an athlete automatically makes one an accomplished leader.
The number of former athletes wanting to take up leadership role is also very low. And even among them the number of those capable of getting the job done remains to be seen.
While many international sports organisations make it mandatory for players to have a representative in their council, local sports associations abhor any such move. They prefer to compartmentalise the role of players, whom they prefer not to get involved in the decision making processes.
The irony that players should not be involved in management is astounding considering the athletes are the core of any sports.
It was such restrictions that forced tennis players to revolt and start their own body in the form of the ATP and WTA.
There is no doubt that there is an urgent need to review how sports associations should be managed. It would need a more holistic study instead of knee-jerk reaction every time something goes wrong.