SINGAPORE: Making sport more accessible to different segments of society, including low-income families and those with special needs - these are the areas of focus for Culture, Community and Youth Minister Grace Fu over the next year.
In an interview with the media on Tuesday (Feb 14) ahead of Budget and Committee of Supply debates, Ms Fu spoke about the ministry’s plans forarts and heritageas well as sports.
On sports, she said the accomplishments of Olympic and Paralympic gold medallists Joseph Schooling and Yip Pin Xiu were feats the whole nation could be proud of.
The sporting excellence achieved in 2015, with a record medal haul at the SEA Games, and the 2016 Olympics provided the Government with valuable learning points on how to better support local athletes, she added. In September 2016, the Government announced a review of its high-performance sports system.
Behind the success of motivated and passionate athletes was an important supporting ecosystem of coaches, nutritionists and physiotherapists, Ms Fu said.
“Obviously we need to build up expertise (and) capability. That is guiding our thinking at the moment.”
Where to build up expertise, where to put more people and which part of the support system needs resources are key questions on the ministry’s mind, according to Ms Fu. Sports excellence (SPEX) scholarships are also being looked at as part of the review of the system, and Ms Fu said details would be announced at the ministry’s Committee of Supply debate, if not earlier.
SPORT AS A UNIFIER
Highlighting that sports was an “excellent platform” to strengthen social cohesiveness, Ms Fu said the Government would focus on this endeavour, by introducing more sports academies and clubs in the coming year.
As part of the ministry’s five-year masterplan to promote sports among those with disabilities, the first of five Centres of Expertise was opened in Sengkang in 2016. The centre currently offers a swimming programme, while another one in Toa Payoh offers wheelchair rugby for persons with disabilities. Ms Fu said there are plans to expand the number of sports programmes. More details will be announced in March.
But Ms Fu also pointed out that beyond putting in place infrastructure, there was a need to build up necessary human capabilities. “It's one thing to build a ramp into a swimming pool but you really need the swimming coaches who are able to teach people with disabilities. (And people with disabilities) are not homogeneous. In fact they have very different needs,” she said.
STATE OF SINGAPORE FOOTBALL
Ms Fu also touched on a question on leadership in the local football scene, coming on the back of delays in the Football Association of Singapore’s first election to choose its president and other office bearers. With the association’s elections expected by May, Ms Fu said a full discussion can be held with the new leadership on support for the association.
She was also asked about an incident in November, where the Home United Youth Football Academy was issued an injunction to restrict its activities on two of its pitches, following residents’ noise complaints.
Ms Fu said that while there were undeniable issues regarding the way the lease was operated, as well as the area’s proximity to residents, the incident underscored the need for more discussions with communities, in order for sports training and activities to be better accepted and integrated.
“Why is that an important process? Because it is part of the community’s assets, (so) the community would like to have a say,” she said.
“(For) some (members of the) community, it is because of proximity. Many have a block that is very close to the football field. And sometimes the floodlights of the football field actually shine directly into their homes. In some cases, maybe that's not the case. So maybe, the use (of such sporting facilities) can be extended for a longer period of time.”
Ms Fu said open discussions about the usage of sporting facilities within residential areas will be important to enlist community support.