Petition to Singapore Athletics to save Masters Athletics in Singapore

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John Chua SMTFA
John Chua SMTFA signed this petition

Background: Masters athletics has been going on in Singapore for the past 40 years. The ethos of World Masters Athletics (WMA), the overseeing body, is to encourage participation, and to welcome anyone to participate in WMA and WMA-affiliated Masters competitions, regardless of their standard. The primary role of WMA-representative bodies of individual countries is to validate the entry and sanction athletes interested in participating in Masters events, who usually pay their own way to participate. It is not to deny or control participation without just cause. Up till recently, Singapore Masters Athletics (SMA) has served as the representative body for Singapore in the generally accepted role.

The issue: It is with great alarm and regret, that in the past year, the latest management committee of the SMA has instituted “rules” for participation in Masters’ events where no such rules have existed for the past 40 years, actually creating obstacles against participation. Despite many appeals, SMA is intent on enforcing these “rules” with the rationale that since they are the sole representative body to WMA, they have the power and authority to determine who can participate in any WMA-sanctioned event, without interference from WMA and Asian Masters Athletics (AMA), while bringing up various questionable rationales to justify their decisions.

These rules, which are not required by WMA at all, include:
1.   having to qualify to participate in the upcoming AMA and possibly WMA championships. The questionable rationale is to improve the standard of athletes participating. Not only does this go against the spirit of WMA, it goes against rule 142.3 of the WMA Rules of Competition which states that “entries shall not be subject to prior achievement of qualifying standards”. The Technical Handbook of AMA 2019 states that “everyone can take part”. Even if athletes qualify, SMA insists it has the right to deny participation without justification and transparency, and this is an abuse of sanctioning powers.

2.   having to undertake “compulsory” training with SMA-designated coaches and training locations to be allowed to participate in AMA, even though athletes had already “qualified”. Firstly, SMA has arbitrarily changed its own rules for AMA participation. Secondly, even elite athletes do not undertake centralised training unless it is for relays. Thirdly, Masters athletes need to individualize training at their own pace, under coaches who are well aware of their physical strengths and limitations. One-size-fits-all mass training can certainly result in injury, and here, SMA is showing its disregard for Masters athletes’ health and well-being. Fourthly, SMA is disrespecting and imposing its will on fellow athletics clubs, who have their own coaches and training. If SMA wishes to provide coaching to athletes who may be interested, it certainly does not need to make it a requirement for sanctioning participation.

3.   having to fly together with the team. The questionable rationale is to “show unity”. For 40 years, Masters athletes have arranged individual travel times depending on leave from work, family commitments, competition date and pre-competition preparation. There is no basis for this change from the standpoint of practicality and consideration of athletes.

4.   having to stay in the same hotel. The same questionable rationale of showing unity was given. In the past 40 years, Masters athletes have had no issues with team spirit and supporting their friends during competition while staying in different locations. As WMA events are often multi-stadia in different parts of the cities, athletes should be able to choose their own accommodation to optimize their commutes and performance. Again, there is no basis for this change from the standpoint of practicality and consideration of athletes.

5.   discouraging spouses from accompanying athletes. The reason given was to “eliminate honeymooners” who would be distracted. In past WMA meets, our Masters athletes have recorded personal bests and won medals with their spouses in attendance. Masters athletes, who often are parents and grandparents, are certainly mature and experienced enough to focus and manage their own performances during competitions. In the Technical Handbook of AMA 2019, the Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Sarawak welcomed “all masters athletes, officials and their family members to Kuching”.

6.   discouraging exploration and enjoyment in the host cities. The reason was that such athletes were “fun runners” and would be distracted. This is a direct contradiction to what is spelt out in websites of all WMA and AMA events which encourage exploring and enjoying the host cities. Again, Masters athletes are mature and experienced enough to manage their performances wherever they are. Why can’t athletes enjoy host cities especially after completing their events?

Masters athletes are not funded by the nation, and should not be subject to selection and training criteria as with elite National athletes. For 40 years, most Masters athletes have paid their own way to participate. If SMA feels that this disadvantages athletes who cannot afford to participate, athletes’ own athletics clubs could certainly provide assistance and financial support. SMA does not have to use subsidizing athletes as a rationale for controlling participation and penalizing athletes who can self-fund from participating.

The recent actions of SMA in creating barriers to wield control over and threaten Masters athletes’ overseas participation while blatantly disregarding WMA and AMA participation criteria, constitutes an abuse of power. Their high-handed approach has caused unnecessary grief and discouragement among Masters athletes to the point that some consider foregoing participation in the AMA and WMA competitions, the exact opposite of the goals of WMA, the world governing body for Masters athletics.

The petition: For the future of Masters athletics in Singapore, and to prevent repeat attempts at such abuse of power, please join this petition to Singapore Athletics to write to World Athletics (formerly IAAF) and WMA, to replace SMA as the country representative for Singapore with an independent and impartial country representative above the club level.

We need to return to a culture of nurture, support and encouragement for Masters to participate in athletics.

NB. Please state your NAME and CLUB as in the list below. If you do not have a club, indicate “Nil”.
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CLUBS:
Zoom           Club Zoom
Flash            Flash Athletics Club
MR25           MacRitchie Runners 25
Police           Police Sports Association
Prisons         Prisons Sports & Recreation Club
Red Hawk    Red Hawk Sports Club
SAFSA         Singapore Armed Forces Sports Association
SIA               Singapore Airlines Group Sports Club
SMA             Singapore Masters Athletics
SMTFA         Singapore Masters Track & Field Association
Swift             Swift Athletes Association
Wings           Wings Athletics Club
Others          Other club not listed
Nil                 No club affiliation