The High Performance Sports (HPS) system is designed based on an athlete-centric environment, to nurture athletes to reach their fullest potential, said Sports Singapore (SS) on 23 December.
In a public letter posted on the Straits Times Forum, the Deputy Director of Public Relations of SS, Mr S Parameswaran said that long-term performance is a key factor in consideration of sports funding.
Mr Parameswaran agreed that resources are finite and that deserving athletes should be supported, saying that the Singapore Sports Institute’s (SSI’s) aim is to support athletes and national sports associations (NSAs) in their development and journey. He added that “this is exactly why SSI consistently reviews athletes’ and NSAs’ performances and prioritises resource allocation.”
Explaining the HPS system, Mr Parameswaran said that it operates on a multi-year timeframe which takes into account the needs of athletes as well as individual sports development.
Mr Parameswaran stressed, “Funding is not a reward or disincentive programme, nor is it a zero-sum game.”
“NSAs submit their Multi-Year Sports Plans with mutually agreed key performance indicators that they have to meet,” he said.
“These parameters do not fluctuate based on a single event or major games, but take a long-term view towards sustained performance by the NSA and athletes.”
Mr Parameswaran asserted, “We are mindful to strike a balance in favour of sustained performance over the long term, to make tweaks where necessary and increase the pool from which our next generation of sporting heroes may be cultivated.”
He was responding to a letter by Dennis Ang Bak Hwee published by ST on 18 December (Channel funding to sports that can deliver results). In his letter, Mr Ang urged the government to review the funding on football in order to channel it towards other sports that “can win regional or global recognition for Singapore”. He said this in view of the “limited resources” the government has for sports funding.
Mr Ang argued that Singaporeans today prefer the European and other major international football leagues over local football, compared to the 1970s and 1980s when local and regional football was more popular.
He then pointed out Team Singapore’s performance in the recent Sea Games, arguing that “it is an opportune time for Sport Singapore to review how it allocates funding.”
“Athletes have lost funding for missing qualifying times for international events,” he highlighted.
Mr Ang concluded, “Deserving sports and athletes that can deliver or have delivered results should be supported so they can reach their full potential.”
Gross under-funding of national athletes
The concern over sports funding in Singapore has been debated for years. Back in 2017, Singapore People’s Party member and current Chairman, Jose Raymond highlighted on his Facebook page the HPS funding scheme which categorises athletes into five levels.
L1 are athletes who excel on the world stage while those in L4 and L4P show potential at the regional and national levels.
Mr Raymond noted that those in L4 are only awarded S$600 a year – or S$50 per month on average – as training assistant grants (spexTAG) from SS. The grant is paid in two disbursements of S$300 every six months.
Mr Raymond lamented, “$50 a month on average for our national athletes in training grants is grossly inadequate, insulting and disrespectful.”
He explained, “Our athletes need supplements, proper nutrition, equipment and for some of them, there is a need to rush from school or camp to training in the evenings or vice versa in the mornings. There are also athletes who have to pay part or all of the costs of their overseas stints when they represent the country.”
Mr Raymond then quotes a Singaporean gold medallist at the 2015 SEA Games receiving S$600 a year at the time who said, “It is high time that Sport Singapore change their mentality towards supporting athletes who intend to make sports our career and bring glory to the country.”
The politician goes on to also note that senior coaches have shared their concerns with him of young national athletes thinking of quitting because of gross under-resourcing.
“From a sports funding policy perspective, this is unacceptable. Sport should never be just for people who have the financial means to pursue their passion and desire to represent the country,” said Mr Raymond.
He went on to point out that Minister for Culture, Community, and Youth Grace Fu had at the time announced an additional $10 million a year to support elite sports.
“But unfortunately, it certainly looks like there are athletes who need the support who don’t appear to be getting the necessary help,” said Mr Raymond.
“Don’t keep lamenting about limited resources, but let’s look into effective allocation of limited resources to help make every Singaporean national athlete a winner,” he concluded.