Soh Rui Yong Says Singapore Athletics Needs To Manage Its Funds Better

Days after refusing to donate 20% of his SEA Games prize money to Singapore Athletics (SA), two-time SEA Games Gold Medalist Soh Rui Yong has fired yet another shot at SA. This time, the marathoner is accusing them of poor financial management.

The SA is supposed to take care of the needs and training of Singapore athletes. However, according to Soh, the SA seems more focused on ensuring that its top brass are paid comfortable salaries while the coaches go unpaid.

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Given that almost half a million is at stake here, let’s take a closer look at the marathoner’s accusations.

Skewed financial allocation

Under the Singapore National Olympic Committee’s rules, Soh Rui Yong is required to donate 20% of the $10,000 prize money he will receive for winning a gold medal at the 2017 SEA Games. The money is supposed to be used for the future development and training of Singapore athletes.

In a Facebook post on 20 Sept, Soh has alleged that he has hardly received any help from Singapore Athletics. He also pointed out that SA spends frivolously.

Here are 2 examples Soh gives which show the SA’s poor allocation of financial resources.

(i) Overpaying the top brass

Soh revealed that the SA spent a whopping figure of over $400,000 on the salary of head coaches and technical directors. This left other departments, such as Soh’s marathon team, without any funds in the lead up to the SEA Games.

The salaries of these management staff would have been justified if the sprint team performed well in the recent SEA games. But after a poor outing in Kuala Lumpur (2 Silver and 2 Bronze out of 54 sprinting medals), the end does not justify the means.

To add salt to to injury, there were internal conflicts between these highly-paid personnel and the athletes’ coaches. These conflicts had a direct impact on the morale and focus on the athletes, as evidenced by Shanti Pereira’s emotional post-Games Instagram post.

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$400,000 is a huge budget. A better allocation of it would surely give our athletes more support in their preparations for international competitions.

(ii) Not paying the coaches that matter

2 major sources of athletics medals come from hurdler Dipna Lim-Prasad and sprinter Shanti Veronica Pereira. It would be fair to assume that the coaches of the 2 athletes must be of a high quality and salary.

We’ll let you in on a little secret: they are unpaid.

Soh cites the case of 2015 SEA Games 200m Champion Shanti Pereira and her coach Margaret Oh. Despite coaching Pereira to a gold medal at the 2015 games and a bronze in the recent 2017 games, Ms Oh is not paid a single cent by the SA.

This seems to be a common occurrence across the other athletics events. In a Facebook post on 2 Sept, hurdler Dipna Lim-Prasad shared her personal experience on the matter.

In the post, Ms Lim-Prasad talked about how her coach “comes down to training after his full time job and trains [her] pro bono”. On top of training Lim-Prasad for free, her coach also takes “personal leave” to accompany his protégé for overseas events.

With unpaid coaches spending significant amounts of time training our athletes, surely they should be compensated with more that just zero.

Poor financial backing from the SA

Maybe the higher-ups do good work behind the scenes, and indeed deserve their cushy salaries. Maybe they’re doing long-term work that will only take years to come to fruition. But with such public criticism coming from the athletes themselves, it’s hard for us on the outside to say too much.

Perhaps it is time for SA to evaluate their financial expenditure and focus on the coaches that help to bring in the medals. Until these issues get sorted out, it is unlikely that athletes like Soh, will willingly contribute their winnings to the SA.

Featured image from Facebook and Facebook.