Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 1st of August, 2017
The Ministry of Youth and Sports needs to do more to improve the quality of running events in Malaysia
The Challenge Putrajaya Half Marathon 2017 was initially scheduled to be on the 17th of April, 2017. The original poster promoting this event said that this event was supported by the Ministry of Youth and Sports (KBS) and also Perbadanan Putrajaya. The race has been postponed to the 1st of October 2017. The race organizers later admitted that they did not have the support of the Ministry of Youth and Sports and Perbadanan Putrajaya. It is uncertain whether the runners affected by this cancellation have received the promised refunds.
In 2015, the HRDF Half Marathon was cancelled. Some runners have yet to receive their refunds – and this is a run organized by a government agency!
It is experiences such as these that prompted me to conduct a survey among the running community. The “Malaysian Runners Survey” was conducted using google docs. 473 unique responses were collected over 2 weeks (from the 17th to the 30th of July, 2017). 331 of the respondents were male (70%) while 143 were female (30%). 354 respondents were over 30 years of age (74.8%), 114 respondents from 18 to 30 years of age (24.1%) and 5 were below 18 years of age (1.1%). Almost all of the respondents were Malaysia (457 out of 473 or 96.6%). Most of the respondents (374 out of 473 or 79.1%) had never won any cash prizes in a race.
Among the questions asked was one which tried to gauge the level of support for a special body to be set up by the government to monitor athletic events, especially races. 36.8% of respondents strongly supported and another 36.8% supports this proposal. The fact that a large majority (77.6%) of respondents supported or strongly supported this proposal shows that there is current dissatisfaction among the running community over the races which are being organized. Some of the comments reflect the desire to have better event organizers who will not ‘run away with the money’ or cancel races without any notice or reason given. Some of the comments reflect the desire to have better organized races with proper Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) so that the quality of races can be maintained at a high level. Some respondents also want this body to ensure that the entry fee for races remain affordable. This proposal was recently made by a runner, Juani Abu Bakar, and subsequently reported in some news outlets.
When I was given the opportunity in the special chamber in parliament yesterday to bring up the proposal of a sport monitoring body, especially for races / runs in Malaysia, I was given a very cookie cutter reply by the Deputy Minister of Youth and Sports, Datuk M. Saravanan. The reply referred to Section 34 of the Sports Development Act 1997 (Act 576) which refers to the use of recognized international rules and guidelines for competitions organized by a sports body.
It also refers to Section 36 of the same act which states that a company who is involved in any sporting activity, as may be prescribed by the Minister in the regulations, must apply for a license to operate by the Commissioner of Sports.
This reply ignores the reality on the ground. Firstly, nearly all of the races in Malaysia are NOT organized by an official sports body such as the Malaysian Athletics Federation (MAF) or one of its affiliates at the state levels. Hence, these race organizers do not have to follow the guidelines as stipulated under Section 34 of the Sports Development Act 1997.
Secondly, it is not common practice for race organizers or companies to register themselves with the Sports Commissioner. Even if there are race organizers who register with the Sports Commissioner, it is unclear if there are steps currently taken to ensure that the quality of these races is of a sufficiently high standard or that refunds must be given back to runners if a race is cancelled or postponed.
If the Minister is really serious about improving the quality of races and protecting the well-being of runners, he should establish a working group with relevant stakeholders (sponsors, race organizers, event organizers, experienced runners from running groups) to lay out the necessary guidelines and procedures which can then be implemented under the Sports Development Act 1997.
The other findings from the Malaysian Runners’ Survey include the following:
(i) A majority of respondents feel that the it is increasingly difficult to find runs which are both affordable and well-organized, in the entry price range of RM50 and below.
(ii) A majority of respondents feel that non-Malaysians should be allowed to participate in races in Malaysia and that they should be allowed to win prizes but with the condition that there is a separate category for non-Malaysians.
(iii) A majority of Malaysians agree with bib-switching but with the caveat that the race organizers must be informed.
I have passed a copy of the results of the Malaysian Runners’ Survey to the Minister of Youth and Sports, Khairy Jamaluddin, through his Deputy, Datuk M. Saravanan, yesterday in parliament.
I urge the Minister to do more to ensure that the quality of races in Malaysian is maintained at a high level. As an athlete himself, I am sure that he would want to see the interest of runners in Malaysia protected and that more and more Malaysians will have access to affordable and high quality races in the country.
I applaud the Ministry of Youth and Sports for showing the way by organizing the Fit Malaysia run on the 12th of August, which is free of charge, and also for organizing the SEA games run in Putrajaya on the 19th of August, so that runners can also support our SEA games marathon athletes who will also be competing in Putrajaya on the same morning.
Dr. Ong Kian Ming
Member of Parliament for Serdang
Attachment 1: Malaysian Runners’ Survey, 30th of July 2017
Attachment 2: Jawapan Kamar Khas – Badan Pemantauan Acara Larian