Masters athletics dispute with governing body SA heats up

What began as a call for change by some veteran athletes over the way the Masters community was being managed has led to a disagreement between Singapore Athletics (SA) and its affiliate, Singapore Masters Athletics (SMA), resulting in the latter sending two legal letters to SA over its provisional suspension.

SMA was provisionally suspended by SA last month for what was deemed a violation of its tasks following an appeal by some members of the Masters community, who had expressed “serious concerns” in a letter to SA president Tang Weng Fei.

The Masters community comprises track and field athletes who are aged 35 and above.

SMA deputy president Samuel Veera Singaram told The Straits Times yesterday that he is hopeful that the matter can be resolved amicably, but added that SMA will take the case to court as a “last scenario”.

He said that SMA, which has over 200 members and boasts storied names such as sprint queen Glory Barnabasand SEA Games marathon champion K Jayamani, had proposed to have “any disputes settled expeditiously and amicably” and that its lawyers from Wong Partnership had written to SA proposing for the matter to be referred to mediation.

“However, SMA has yet to receive a substantive response from SA nor have they to date provided SMA with an explanation as to why this provisional suspension was imposed or when it would be lifted,” added the 67-year-old.

“In the interest of athletics, SMA waited because we don’t want the athletics scene to be further damaged. But if there is no resolution, the matter will go to court.”

In their letter to Tang, the athletes listed five reasons for their unhappiness and urged the governing body for local track and field to step in. Among these were the SMA’s insistence on qualifying marks for competitions, selection criteria and minimum attendance at training sessions, which the athletes felt were “contrary to the underlying principle and ethos of Masters athletics”.

An online petition on change.org has garnered over 1,300 signatories calling for SA to write to World Athletics and World Masters Athletics, the world governing body for Masters athletics, to replace SMA as the country’s representative.

However, Veera insisted yesterday that his team did not understand why SA “had deemed SMA to have acted in violation of its tasks (by) imposing certain policies when SA had themselves shown support for these very same policies”.

He added: “The issues such as qualifying criteria, training policies and team and travel policies were discussed in consultation with SA and SA’s affiliate members at various meetings in 2018 and 2019. These initiatives received positive response and support from the representatives in attendance.”

When contacted, SA Executive Director Syed Abdul Malik Aljunied said that SA “is willing and ready to seek a viable solution to this as soon as possible”. He added: “We acknowledge that it is their perogative to seek legal recourse. The next step is for us to meet and address the issues at hand, to eradicate these ‘distractions’ and focus on serving the interests of Masters athletes.”

SA is also embroiled in a separate legal dispute with national marathoner Soh Rui Yong, who sued the national sports association for defamation last month over its statement on his non-selection for the Nov 30-Dec 11 SEA Games.

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