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$165m Major Sports Event Fund to enhance events hub status

As Taylor Swift fever rages on in Singapore this week, the Government is looking to build on the momentum and strengthen the Republic’s position as a choice destination for entertainment and sports events.

To help achieve that goal, a $165 million Major Sports Event Fund will be set aside over four years, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong announced on March 7 during his speech on his ministry’s budget.

Mr Tong said hosting such events will mean more opportunities for Singapore athletes to “compete and measure yourselves against some of the world’s best right here on our home ground”.

He added: “Singaporeans will get to watch more of the world’s best athletes in action, adding to an already vibrant sporting calendar. It also boosts economic growth and global recognition, possibly unlocking latent potential in hosting entertainment and sporting events, and concurrently strengthening Singapore’s reputation as a choice destination for high-signature international events.”

In 2023, Singapore hosted the inaugural Olympic Esports Week, the Professional Triathletes Organisation (PTO) Asian Open, Fiba 3x3 Asia Cup, World Table Tennis (WTT) Singapore Smash, HSBC Singapore Rugby Sevens and the Formula One Singapore Grand Prix.

Responding to queries from The Straits Times, a Sport Singapore (SportSG) spokesperson said the fund will enable the governing body “to more proactively pursue discussions with event owners such as international sport federations, and attract them to host their major events in Singapore”.

SportSG’s key considerations when assesing event proposals, added the spokesperson, include an event’s ability to profile the Republic as a sporting event destination, provide useful competition opportunities for Singapore athletes against regional and international athletes, and increase opportunities for local residents to spectate and participate in a wide range of sports events.

Other grants that SportSG previously introduced include the Blended Events Grant during the Covid-19 pandemic to catalyse sports businesses’ digitalisation and encourage them to continue organising events in a blended format (virtual and physical).

International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) group chief executive Steve Dainton welcomed the development. The WTT is a commercial vehicle the ITTF launched in 2020. 

Mr Dainton said: “I think it’s awesome what they’ve done with the concerts this year. You can see the buzz in the town and from a sporting point of view, of course, I think that (fund) sounds like a great idea. We could see more activity and more buzz and I believe that it’s great for the Singapore economy and for the society here as well.”

He said the WTT Singapore Smash costs between $8 and $10 million to organise, with the Government putting in “a small part” while the rest is commercially driven.

He added: “I’ve been here for 13 years and I’ve seen the sporting culture grow in my time here. I think that’s been largely led by the strategy of bringing some major events here... it looks like a good strategy.”

In January, media and event organiser Jumpshot Singapore staged the inaugural Jumpshot 3x3 International Tournament, which featured 22 teams from Thailand, South Korea, Chinese Taipei and other territories. Jumpshot Singapore chief executive Esther Quek revealed that it cost about $200,000 to host and it is planning for a bigger tournament in 2025, and even a regional 3x3 league in the future.

Ms Quek said: “Funding will help us especially to support some of the logistics costs, like prizes and some of the set-up costs, and it can help to give confidence to organisers that the staging of the event can be profitable. More money means more quality in terms of the teams we can bring in and the level of tournaments that can be held here.”

Former national footballer R. Sasikumar, chief executive of D+1 Sports – which specialises in sports business development – welcomed the news but also delivered a dose of reality, noting that better infrastructure is needed to support Singapore’s ambitious sport plans.

Mr Sasikumar, who previously organised the International Premier Tennis League (2014 to 2016) and the Lion City Cup through sports marketing firm Red Card Global, explained that events like the Lion City Cup will not fill the 55,000-seater National Stadium but can still bring in tourist dollars. Noting that international football sides do not play on artificial turf, he asked if “we have smaller venues that we can use”.

He added: “So while the funding is good, it is important to also ensure there is consideration for the smaller, grassroots events too. Only then we can create a proper sports ecosystem and become a sports tourism hub.”

In 2024, sports fans here can look forward to the return of the WTT Singapore Smash from March 7 to 17, the 2024 PTO Tour from April 12 to 14 and the World Rugby HSBC SVNS Singapore leg at the National Stadium from May 3 to 5.

The World Aquatics Championships will be hosted here in 2025, with more than 2,500 athletes from 200 countries competing across the six aquatic disciplines – swimming, diving, high diving, open water swimming, artistic swimming and water polo.