June 15 2020
By HARESH DEOL
It was a seven-paragraph statement that pretty much screamed “I’m the boss”.
The good folks at Kuala Lumpur City Hall may have thought that their June 11 press release would show the local council is still concerned about building a new badminton academy after the iconic Kuala Lumpur Badminton Stadium in Cheras was torn down to make way for development.
Certain words in the press release were bolded, like “the 11.427 acres land is owned by City Hall” (paragraph two) and ” … its assets were on the land” (paragraph three), to signal that City Hall owns it all. And the final paragraph read like more of a threat to the Kuala Lumpur Badminton Association (KLBA) – the association that used to be housed at the 4,500-capacity stadium. It read:
“Akademi Badminton adalah aset milik Datuk Bandar Kuala Lumpur dan Datuk Bandar Kuala Lumpur mempunyai hak untuk melantik mana-mana pihak yang difikirkan layak untuk melaksanakan pengurusan tersebut.”
(The badminton academy is an asset of City Hall and the mayor has the right to appoint any party it thinks can manage the place).
The land housing the stadium, built in 1990, was bought over by Mah Sing in 2017 as reported by sports blog Foul! then. The stadium was torn down and there has not been any development of a new venue since.
Ironically, the Kuala Lumpur Badminton Stadium remains in the list of ‘Stadiums and Sports Centres’ in the official Visit Kuala Lumpur website.
KLBA, the guardian of the sport in the city, has been “homeless” for the past three years. Having developed some fine shuttlers, including Ong Ewe Hock and Liew Daren, over the decades, young KLBA talents now train at private halls.
Most sports associations in Malaysia do not own their stadiums. Even Kuala Lumpur Football Association (KLFA) and the Kuala Lumpur Hockey Association (KLHA) could suffer the same fate as KLBA.
The badminton stadium that was demolished once housed the Badminton World Federation and hosted the 1998 Commonwealth Games badminton competition.
KLFA is currently housed at the Kuala Lumpur Football Stadium in Bandar Tun Razak and has a 15-year contract to manage the stadium. The contract with City Hall ends in January 2021. KLFA has been “lucky” as its patron or president has always been someone affiliated with City Hall or the Federal Territories (FT) Ministry. However, it could now be in a quandary as its president is former FT Minister Tan Sri Khalid Samad – who was booted out following the collapse of Pakatan Harapan in February.
It remains unclear how long more KLHA will remain at the Kuala Lumpur Hockey Stadium in Pantai as the hockey officials are still negotiating their stay following an eviction order by City Hall in February last year.
Mayor Datuk Nor Hisham Ahmad Dahlan was joined by KLBA president Datuk Seri Jahaberdeen Mohamed Yunoos, BA of Malaysia general secretary Datuk Kenny Goh and Mah Sing Group Bhd CEO Datuk Ho Hon Sang at the site on Tuesday. It’s baffling that three years on, the stakeholders have yet to resolve the matter.
The tone of the June 11 statement seems to suggest that City Hall, the land and asset owner, wants to take full control of these venues.
Sports associations manage the venues and at the same time promote their respective sports especially at the grassroots, something City Hall has no expertise to do. And if Nor Hisham thinks he will be able to relive the glory days of badminton in Kuala Lumpur, he must be reminded that his two-year term will come to an end on Oct 1.
If there are sports associations that have abused their stay, then it’s best for City Hall to name and shame them. Otherwise, it will be logical for City Hall to work with the respective sports associations in the sporting spirit of teamwork – even if it means KLBA taking a look at the design plans for the new academy.
If City Hall plans to appoint a third party to run these facilities, then will these contractors work with the respective associations to develop sports in Kuala Lumpur?
Goh, who is playing observer in this episode, said: “City Hall is the guardian of Kuala Lumpur and should rightfully work with KLBA in promoting the sport.”
“Badminton is big in Malaysia … it’s an Olympic-medal prospect sport. Unearthing as many talents as possible is vital to ensure we get the best of the best,” Goh added.
But judging by the tone of the press release, City Hall is eager to show who is boss.
As such, it’s best that City Hall start running sports in Kuala Lumpur, organise regular tournaments and conduct development programmes. Also, City Hall, being the land and asset owner, and its mayor should be prepared to be scrutinised and be answerable if the local council fails to unearth new talents or performs badly at the Malaysia Games.
The shuttlecock is now in City Hall’s court.