PUTRAJAYA: The government has formed a new high-level committee (HLC), chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, to reform Malaysian sports.
Zahid said the HLC aimed to streamline cooperation between ministries — mainly the Youth and Sports, Education and Higher Education ministries — and state governments and local councils.
"Developing sports involves various ministries, not just the Sports Ministry.
"We need to look at this if we are to improve our performance at the national, regional and international level," he said after chairing the Sports Development Cabinet Committee meeting in Putrajaya today.
"We have agreed to form a HLC that will for a start involve a handful of ministries — sports, education and higher education.
"The HLC will meet on June 7 to work on the implementation of what we discussed today.
"The HLC will focus on a development model for athletics, swimming and combat sports and look at how we can get uniformed bodies such as police and army more involved in sports.
"Malaysia is set to become an ageing nation by 2030, with more than 15 per cent of the population over the age of 60. So we also have to look at how we can implement preventative measures to improve health overall."
Zahid said steps would be taken to encourage more companies to sponsor sports.
"It (sports funding) is not just about increasing allocations from the national budget. We also have to look at how to increase sponsorship from public-listed companies and government-linked companies to boost the development of certain sports," he said.
"We have requested for an increase in tax benefits to encourage more companies to sponsor sports."
Youth and Sports Minister Hannah Yeoh said it was important to focus on athletics and swimming as the two sports could not improve without any assistance.
"After discussing the recent Phnom Penh Sea Games (results), we saw that we were excellent in combat sports, but did not do so well in athletics and swimming, which both offer a lot of medals, so our strategy has to change," said Yeoh at the same press conference.
"If we do not put enough effort into (developing) athletics and swimming, nothing will change.
"We are grateful to receive attention from Zahid, who will help us streamline efforts (between ministries).
"We have a plan to develop new talent. With the top-down approach and Zahid's involvement, I am confident we will see results. We just need to be given some time.
"What is important is that we close the gap. As I have said previously, we have wasted a lot of time over the past four years (due to political instability)."
At this year's Sea Games, Malaysia only won one gold from 39 on offer in swimming and five gold from 48 on offer in athletics.
The national contingent concluded the games in seventh position among 11 nations, Malaysia's worst-ever placing in the history of the biennial competition.