Tuesday, April 3, 2012

MNCF losing out despite booming industry

NOT many sports can claim to enjoy what cycling is currently experiencing in Malaysia, but what the sport gets out of it at the end of the road is something still left to be desired.

  Compared to   10 years ago when the Malaysian National Cycling Federation (MNCF) struggled to run events frequently, today there are more cycling-related events than most other sports.

  Complementing the MNCF's calendar of 44 events this year are hundreds of mountain biking, road or fun rides organised throughout the country on a weekly basis.

  From government to corporate bodies  are jumping onto the bandwagon wanting a piece of cycling.

  The industry, Sports Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek admits, is booming and he has studies done by the Sports Ministry's sports industry department to back his claim.

  Ahmad Shabery even calls what cycling is experiencing a phenomenon.

  So much so that around the country, more and more organisers are realising the often positive financial prospects of organising events for recreational cyclists, backed by the consistent entry lists of more than 1,000 participants for most non-MNCF sanctioned mountain bike jamborees.

  This provides even an ad-hoc organiser who can put together a decent event that runs without any untoward incident, the chance to make decent profits from entry fees and sponsorship.

  Aptly, manufacturers and distributors in the industry have in the past two years, stepped in to reap the potential from these events, while riders are benefiting from endorsements gained from their participation in such events.

  The MNCF has  allowed this phenomenon to boom rather than step in for fear of being accused of spoiling the party with the need to enforce regulations and sanctions.

  It is a scene that seems to suit everyone if not for the stories of suffering junior riders aiming to make it big via development programmes being left unheard.

  While Malacca Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam gets on his bicycle to join now frequent community rides as part of a 'Go Green' campaign in the state, the Malacca junior team of 30 riders were left with a budget of RM3,000 to cover their needs for their three-day trip to Perlis for a junior meet last weekend.

  Over in Kelantan coach Rosli Salleh runs his talent mill by scouting for talent among youth using cheap basic bikes, but  when he has the talent, he finds little support apart from the state sports council when he needs to give his riders exposure.

  In most states, you will find coaches and state associations struggling to find the support required to ensure developing cyclists are given sufficient backing.

  What this shows is the continued lack of cohesion in the cycling system, where development does not benefit from the growth in the sport.

  While a regular jamboree organiser charges between RM35 and RM50 per entry and potentially makes profits of up to RM30,000 per event, each round of MNCF's SportExcel National Junior Circuit is run with a maximum budget of RM7,000 when they feature up to 180 of the country's top juniors.

  The disparity is alarming because while others continue to show that cycling is becoming a lucrative industry, the MNCF continues to show the opposite.

  The corporate sector won't be interested in these figures because they are not mileage cows on par with track stars Azizulhasni Awang or Fatehah Mustapa, but that's because the MNCF hasn't sold any of these ideas to them.

  As unfair as it may seem, there should be a formula for the MNCF and its affiliates to capitalise on the growth in order to channel a piece of the pie towards development.

  It will not happen if the cycling bodies themselves don't begin to realise the potential they are sitting on and continue to depend on the insecure injections of government funds.

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