Singapore Cycling Federation starts from scratch

Though they have inherited an improved set of books, the much more difficult task of building a compelling vision awaits the new president and management committee elected to lead Singapore s national governing body of cycling.

IT professional Jeffrey Goh was uncontested in his presidential bid at Singapore Cycling Federation s (SCF) 2015 AGM held on October 21, while all but one of the incumbent management committee members were replaced in the first such meeting convened since September 2012. Only Walton Seah, responsible for the Bike Trials discipline, remains[1]. Outgoing president Suhaimi Haji Said leaves after three pragmatic years overseeing the implementation of a new corporate governance framework that arguably has causation to falling memberships over the same period.

The change is being received positively in Singapore, but perhaps there should be a sense of d j vu. When Said entered office in September 2012, he also bought with him a new Executive Committee (with Seah once again being the only previous committee member re-elected). Questionable activities under the previous leadership set Said about implementing new reporting and governance standards while offloading programs and cutting costs not essential to the organisation s operational objectives.

One such program was the OCBC Singapore Pro Cycling team which was announced to much fanfare [CiQ: including on this site] in January 2012. SCF had decided the existing national development squad, with the aide of significant sponsorship funding from OCBC Bank, could benefit from a more commercial approach and the regional racing opportunities that a UCI Continental License brought with it. In an athletic development context, the decision proved to be reasonably sound. The team received invites to Asia s pinnacle stage race Tour de Langkawi, as well as Tour de Brunei, Tour of Japan and Tour of Azerbaijan. OCBC riders also filled most of the Elite Men s podium spots at the 2012 National Road Cycling Championships in June 2012.

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SCF was also one of 33 National Sports Associations (NSA) in Singapore that was benefitting from a multi-year Annual National Sports Association Grant Exercise (ANGE) first offered by the Government-led Singapore Sports Council (SSC) in 2010. The single-year grants offered prior to 2010 had made planning and execution of long-term strategies difficult for NSA s such as SCF, but the new system afforded sufficient capital bandwith to build programs that might develop world-class elite athletes.

But it seemed the intended use of the grants was lost in translation by some SCF members and this would be a constant theme highlighted, in decreasingly diplomatic language, within the three Annual Reports issued by the Federation between September 2012 and March 2015.

The Said-led committee delivered its first Annual Report on 31 March 2014 and it began by noting that We invested a fair amount of time in reviewing our accounts and fixed assets and spent even more time resolving some fixed assets issues that were unresolved since 2011. We are pleased to report that we have set in place new measure for proper corporate governance to strengthen the work done by our predecessors. We are confident and poised for growth in 2014 and beyond.

However, the kind words conveyed to past achievements stopped there. The committee had decided that it would no longer manage the OCBC Pro Cycling Team in 2014 acknowledging, as an NSA, we felt that we may be in a conflict of interest if we continue to manage the team. In 2013, the management of the team was outsourced to Singapore High Performance Pte Ltd in preparation for their independent role from 2014.

The strongest words were reserved for matters relating to the ANGE funding.

SCF members need to be aware that SSC maintains strict guidelines as to how these funds are used and adherence to SSC s Financial Regulations for NSAs as well as SCF s own Financial Policy and Procedures, among other policies and guidelines, are mandatory.

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Despite the positive momentum of change management, SCF s financial situation was still far from being under control. While annual expenses had decreased from SGD473 892 in FY13 to SGD321 953 by the time Said s first Annual Report was released, revenue had fallen by 23.8% from SGD392 017 to SGD298 865 in the same period. In addition to the government grant of SGD235 170, SCF was fortunate to receive an undisclosed amount of sponsorship monies from four private parties, as well as generous donations from management committee secretary Maurice Lee.

By contrast, revenue from annual membership fees was meagre. 55 SCF members contributed a mere SGD1 650 (at SGD30 per membership) to the coffers, though an 240 members were in a position to renew in the following financial period.

The fact that Singaporeans liked to ride (a 2014 SSC Sports Participation Survey of 2 975 residents found that 3% regularly participated in bicycle touring , compared to 4% in Football) but not necessarily race would have been obvious to anyone who turned up to the 2013 National Road Cycling Championships in the last weekend of August. Though 27 of the 47 starters in the 170km Elite Men s Road Race held SCF licences, the next-biggest field Men s Masters, usually comprising members of the community with the most disposable income was only 26-strong with 14 SCF-registered riders. A field of five riders made up the Elite Women s road race, won by lone Singaporean cyclist Dinah Chan.

While the management committee focused intently on its financial position, the promotion of racing continued to suffer. To date, the National Road Cycling Championships have not been held since August 2013. The very public face of elite racing also imploded. OCBC Pro Cycling folded in December 2014, after OCBC Bank pulled its funding; ostensibly because it had met its objectives in creating a development platform through a team (and helped) aspiring cyclists fulfil their dreams.

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Goh knows it will be a long road ahead to reconnect with all stakeholders in cycling. Creating more awareness and public interest in recreational cycling events is a priority and, as a matter of equal urgency, a genuine roadmap for the development of elite cyclists needs to be designed.

Vincent Ang has managed to get a (bronze medal at the 2015 SEA Games) for Singapore but he is 38 years old, said Goh in a televised interview with Channel News Asia. How much longer (do we have to wait) to find another Vincent Ang who is 22 years old, 18 year olds, to represent Singapore in such sports?

The new management committee will now have to determine how to deploy an increased SSC grant of SGD380 755 for the current financial year, whilst seeking to build revenue through more mass-start events. A key committee change to support this has been the creation of a dedicated Leisure portfolio alongside the traditional disciplines of Road, BMX, Track, and Trials. Goh has also stated that he would like to resume the national road cycling championships in 2016. That doesn t mean that the financial woes are behing SCF. A questionable SGD28 427 asset write-off in the 2013 Financial Statements has again bubbled to the surface, with an official report handed over to the Singaporean Police for investigation.

[1] the status of the three full-time SCF management staff that work out of the new Singapore Sports Hub is not known at time of writing.

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