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Government must enable sports businesses too

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ActiveSG Football Academy is killing existing sports academies

The ActiveSG Football Academy, which is run by Sport Singapore, is killing industry and enterprise, and will destroy Singaporean livelihoods.

ActiveSG Football Academy is being organised using taxpayers' money, being conducted on fields which are maintained using taxpayers' money, and administered by staff employed by Sport Singapore, a statutory board under the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY).

Unfortunately, the consequence - unintended or otherwise - of this programme is that it kills existing academies that are already in operation, some for more than 15 years.

These academies, such as the Brazilian Jericho and 2Touch Soccer Academy, have all been contributing to football development and filling a gap caused by the lack of youth football development initiatives by the Football Association of Singapore (FAS).

For example, Brazilian Jericho, which is run by former S-League player and permanent resident Fabio da Silva, has been involved in sending young Singaporean footballers to Brazil for training stints over the last few years.

And many of his players have even been selected to represent Meridian Junior College, winning eight of the last 12 A Division football titles.

Da Silva and others have said the ActiveSG Football Academy is destroying their businesses and the industry, because students are now heading towards ActiveSG due to cheaper prices.

This is wrong, and flies in the face of the Government's move to encourage entrepreneurship among Singaporeans and to support small businesses.

Instead of challenging existing academies, shouldn't the Government be an enabler for these businesses by providing grants for the well-organised academies?


Wouldn't this help them expand their coaching and student intake, which means they can offer cheaper prices, which will then help the Government achieve its participation objective?

Why is a government agency engaging and challenging the commercial sector using taxpayers' money, which will only lead to its ultimate demise?

What's worse, it appears that there was minimal - if any - engagement with existing academies before the ActiveSG Football Academy was rolled out.

This is wrong.

The Government's role is to encourage, enable and empower such academies and sports businesses, the same way there is support for small- and medium-sized enterprises in other sectors.

If the issue is accreditation or expertise, then the role of the Government is to work with the FAS and set a standard, which is then applied across the football academy sector.

Also, the People's Association, yet another statutory board which comes under the purview of MCCY, has been conducting the PAssion Children's Football programmes across the country since 2004 and reaches out to almost the same demographics as ActiveSG Football Academy.

The duplication of work across two government agencies under the same ministry is a waste of taxpayers' resources.

Using taxpayers' money to start duplicate programmes, to conduct these programmes which then destroy Singaporean livelihoods, is unacceptable.

The Government should be an enabler and not disable.

The writer is a vice-president at the Singapore Swimming Association and is the managing director of Spin, a communications agency. His agency represents JSSL International Sevens, a seven-a-side soccer tournament for children. He posted this commentary on his Facebook page on Tuesday, and this is reproduced with permission.