Malaysians have been a lot more physical recently. There are more running events than ever, as well as open water swimming events and obstacle course races, to name a few. However, a recent development may change all that.
On Sunday, three people were hit by a car when they were running in the Klang City International Marathon, in the early morning. Two of them, Amirudin Hamid, 37, and Ahmad Hadafi Jus, 44, received minor injuries on their hands and head, despite Ahmad Hadafi being carried on the roof of the car that hit them for one kilometer before it crashed into a ditch.
“One minute I was running, the next I was on the roof of a car. I have no idea how I ended up on the roof. I kept pounding on the roof and window but I don’t know why the driver didn’t stop,” – Ahmad Hadafi Jus, for The Star.
Considering the magnitude of the incident, Ahmad Hadafi and Amirudin might be considered lucky to have sustained only minor injuries. However, the same can’t be said for Evelyn Ang, 44, who suffered a cranial fracture and brain bleeding. While the incident happened on Sunday, Dec 10, as of the time of this article, Evelyn still remains unconscious.
The driver of the car, a 27-year-old man who remained anonymous, was found to be sober and not under the influence of drugs. While one may be tempted to think that this incident was a case of careless driving, news reports seem to suggest that the driver is not the only one at fault, as…
According to runners, the marathon’s management is lacking
A marathon participant being put into a coma during the event is no small issue, and the incident blew up during the days following it. Runners reported their unease during the event, and the source of that unease comes from the allegedly terrible management of the event itself. One of the runners, Nurdina Kassim, 25, a bank executive, recounted that the organizers were so slow in processing registrations, she initially thought the marathon is a scam.
“After making my payment, I did not receive any confirmation regarding my race kit. I emailed them (the organiser) several times and even called their office line to sort this out. I almost thought it was a scam,” – Nurdina Kassim, 25, bank executive, for the Malay Mail Online.
But that’s not the end of her unease. During the race itself, she felt that the race route is dangerous and there’s a lack of safety marshals to guide the runners. The absence of marshals was so pronounced that at times, she felt that she had gone off course, having gone through dark alleys at 4.30 in the morning with no one in sight.
Barley Wong, a 38-year-old marketing manager who also participated in the run, shared Nurdina’s thoughts, quoting that this is the first marathon where he thought that he might not get home safely. Barley noted that there were only a few cones separating the runners’ lanes from traffic, which wasn’t so comforting.
Another runner, Kumar, a 35-year-old consultant, revealed that the marathon route in some parts came into contact with heavy traffic, and the situation was so dangerous that runners have to slow down or even wait as traffic was zooming past them. This wasn’t exactly the most ideal conditions for a foot race, and due to that Kumar said that this is definitely the worst marathon he had ever participated in. His best time of four hours was extended by 45 minutes.
Slow registration processing, unsafe routes and lack of runner supervision, as well as a construction site on the route, leading to extra unnecessary risk, all pointed towards terrible management on behalf of the organizers. While Donny Teh, one of the marathon’s organizers had claimed that there had been 65 police officers, 40 RELA personnel, 35 road marshals and five ambulances at the event, based on the testimonies of the participants as well as one still unconscious in the hospital, something clearly went wrong in the management of the run.
How on earth was the organizers allowed to hold a running event in the first place? Well, about that…
The marathon might have been illegal, according to the Youth and Sports Ministry
The organizers of the Klang City International Marathon, Earth Runners Int Group Sdn Bhd had stated through its spokesperson that they applied for permission to hold the event from both the Klang Municipal Council (MPK) and the police back in June, and they have received the green light in August. They also claim to have adhered to the procedures and got the necessary permits to hold the event.
“No company in the world would dare go on with such a big event without going through the relevant authorities because this concerns the safety of all participants. I do not want to comment further, and we will leave the matter to our lawyer.” – Tay, spokesperson for Earth Runners, for the Malaysian Insight.
However, the MPK’s Yang Dipertua, Datuk Mohamad Yasin Bidin had said that the organizers only asked to rent a field at the Kompleks Sukan Pandamaran, as the marathon was privately run. ACP Mazelan Paijan, North Klang’s police chief, had on the other hand revealed that the organizers did request for traffic police personnel to help them control traffic, but they have recently discovered that the marathon was not approved by the Sports Commissioner’s Office (SCO).
The SCO is the government body that monitors all sports events in the country, and Zaiton Othman, a Commissioner had stated that the Klang City International Marathon is illegal, as the SCO did not receive any application for it. Speaking to the Malaysian Insight, Zaiton quoted the Sports Development Act 1997, Section 36 which states that all sports events must have, along with the permission of the police, local authorities, the relevant sport governing body and other relevant parties, the SCO’s permission to be carried out. This particular law was set down to ensure that event organizers stick to the guidelines stated by national sport governing bodies.
“We will take legal action against the (Klang marathon) organizers for the offence they committed. I would like to remind once again that any party seeking to organize a sports event must apply for and get our permission before the event commences. Organizers are also reminded to comply with the guidelines given based on the application made. We will take legal action if organizers violate these instructions.” – Zaiton Othman, for the Malaysian Insight.
When asked whether Earth Runners Int Group Sdn Bhd knew that they needed to get the approval of the SCO to hold the race, Tay declined to comment. Earth Runners may or may not know the requirement of an approval from the SCO to hold a marathon, but the fact remained that they did not ask for one. If events without the SCO’s approval are illegal, then…
A lot of running events in the country are illegal as well
The President of the Malaysian Athletics Federation (MAF), Datuk Karim Ibrahim, said that most of the thousands of running events in the country were never approved by either the MAF or the Sports Commissioner’s Office. But why is this so? Datuk Karim felt that the reason why most organizers don’t ask for their approval is not ignorance, but greed.
In a statement to the Star, Datuk Karim had said the issue had often been brought up by the MAF through press conferences, and they’ve held talks and seminars on the issue for event managers.
“Yet, people still refuse to adhere to the rules. They’re only interested in making a quick buck more than anything else at the expense of the athletes’ safety and even people’s lives.” – Datuk Karim Ibrahim, for the Star.
That sentiment is shared by the vice-president of the Selangor Athletic Association (SAA), K. Yogasvaran. According to him, a possible reason for private companies to avoid getting the SCO’s approval is due to the sanction fees charged. These companies skimp on these fees to maximize the profit gained from such events, even though they already save a lot through sponsorship of items such as T-shirts and consumer products from the big brands.
Even worse, some of them skimp on the manpower as well, compromising the safety of the participants in the process.
“However, these companies try to cut corners to reap a bigger profit… They minimize on manpower and this leads to safety being compromised. In every run there has to be traffic marshals who monitor the participants to ensure they are safe at all times,” – K. Yogasvaran, for the Sun Daily.
Zaiton had stated that some private companies had turned marathons into commercial ventures, and that it’s not uncommon for people wanting to participate to be disappointed.
“Some are RM2 companies. They collect the fees of between a few tens to hundreds of ringgit from each participant and carry out the event as they wish without approval from the SCO. There have been cases where events did not take place and runners were left in the lurch. We have come across many such cases and had also lodged police reports against the organisers.” – Zaiton Othman, for the Sun Daily.
With the gravity of the current situation…
Starting next year, running events will be more strictly regulated
While bad events had been around for a while, Evelyn’s case is hard to take lightly. Her case brought on a wave of reforms in the way sporting events will be held in Malaysia, and one of them is by the MAF. Datuk Karim had stated that the MAF will impose stricter guidelines for sporting event organizers to follow starting next year, and some of them will include allowing only reputable event managers with good track records to hold events and making it a requirement for runs to be officiated by only certified MAF officials.
“We’re not going to let any Tom, Dick and Harry organize event. Only those with reputable backgrounds and sufficient experience and expertise will be allowed to.” – Datuk Karim, for the Star.
Datuk Karim had also warned national athletes and MAF officials against participating in events not approved by the MAF and the SCO, and action will be taken against those who do. The police and the local authorities are also urged not to give permits to organizers if they did not receive the MAF and the SCO’s approval. As of the 14th of December, the public can check which events have gained the authorities’ approval on the SCO’s website.
Khairy Jamaluddin, the Youth and Sports Minister said that he will soon submit some amendments to the Sports Development Act 1997, and it is believed that the amendments will also come into force next year. While the amendments had first been discussed in 2015, Khairy had said that the amendments needed some time to be finalized as it is a comprehensive one as they not only address the issue of errant event organizers, but also other issues that require the ministry to engage with relevant stakeholders as well.
Among other things to be amended are stiffer fines for those going against Section 36 of the Act, that will currently impose a fine of not more than RM5,000 and imprisonment of not more than six months.
“We want a heavier fine of RM500,000 and for the prison term to be extended. It should also be made compulsory for organizers to apply for a licence 90 days prior to an event,” – Khairy Jamaluddin, for the Malaysian Digest.
All this, according to Khairy, is to protect participants from enlisting in sporting events without proper permits. However, with such drastic changes, some might wonder…
Where does one draw the line when it comes to permits?
With the sports authority starting to look seriously at events without permits as well as the people organizing them, one might wonder if all sporting events need a permit from the MAF and SCO after this. Would a simple inter-company football match be penalized without a permit after this? Would all forms of running require a permit? As Serdang’s MP Ong Kian Ming had stated on the issue,
“If the Klang International Marathon is an illegal race because it was not approved by the Office of the Sports Commissioner, then almost all other races in Malaysia would be considered illegal including ultramarathons, trail runs, charity runs, fun runs, tower runs as well as cycling events.” – Ong Kian Ming, for the Malay Mail Online.
Based on the aforementioned Section 36 of the Sports Development Act 1997…
…it does seem a bit hazy. Furthermore, based on the definitions we’ve found in the Act, the term “sporting activity” refers not only to the hosting of competitions like the recent marathon, but also seminars, clinics, courses, sending participants to sporting events and ‘any other activity ancillary or related to a sport’. That’s a pretty wide net to cast. ‘Sports‘ in this Act, on the other hand refers to any of the 39 activities found in its First Schedule, which includes billiards, bodybuilding and traditional games, yet not running in any form.
However, one can conclude from this section that you only need a permit if you’re a formal company hosting a sporting event, so that probably rules out your kampung level futsal match. Probably. However, even ruling those out, there are still a lot of events to monitor.
We’ve looked at the list of approved events we’ve found on the SCO’s website, and there are but 16 events in the list as of yesterday. That’s almost as many as the amount of running events listed on JustRunLah for the remainder of December alone. Unless the coming amendment specified things in a more clear manner, the SCO will have their hands full either approving permits or making police reports.
While stricter Sports Development laws may prevent what happened to Evelyn to others, it also has a chance of making things run contrary to what the Act aimed to do in the first place due to the additional red tape. Therefore, in addition to stricter laws, the governing bodies will also need to beef up their efficiency as well.
“What I hope won’t happen is a knee jerk reaction such as forcing all running events which are to be held in the next few weeks or months to obtain approval in an arbitrary manner from the Office of the Sports Commissioner. Let us have an honest, open and fruitful discussion on how to improve the quality of running events in Malaysia so that we can minimize the chances of another such tragic accident from happening again,” – Ong Kian Ming, for the Malay Mail Online.