An audio recording apparently revealed that Chinese Taipei Badminton Association executives still intended to punish players who sought to honor their own sponsorship deals, despite an earlier promise to not do so, prompting lawmakers yesterday to ask the government to implement reforms to national sports bodies.
Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Huang Kuo-shu (黃國書) and other lawmakers said that they are concerned that the governing body is unjustifiably disciplining athletes, while making tens of millions of dollars from commercial deals and keeping their accounts locked away from public scrutiny.
Huang said he asked the Sports Administration to provide the attendance list of association executives at an Aug. 23 meeting to help discover who was responsible for the association’s policies, because it is time to reform sports governance.
The association convened the meeting, at which they issued a public apology over a fine issued to female Olympian Tai Tzu-ying (戴資穎) and promised she would not face punishment.
However, an insider leaked a recording of the meeting, which purportedly had audio of executives saying that the association was in the right to dish out fines.
“We must teach a lesson to these athletes for breaking the rules,” the audio reportedly said. “Yes, we had promised not to go after Tai, but we did not say we would not punish [badminton player] Liao Kuang-hao (廖冠皓),” who was fined NT$300,000 (US$9,550) two years ago over a sponsorship row.
Huang said he had received numerous messages from netizens and sports fans regarding the issue.
“Almost all of them supported my actions to launch an investigation into the association and to find out which executives are taking these revenge actions against the athletes,” Huang said. “It is time to fix these sporting bodies.”
“Some of the executives did not review their own decisions and make amends, but sought revenge against the athletes. This is a serious infraction of the government’s new direction regarding sports policies,” Huang said. “We need to implement major reforms of these sporting bodies for the good of our nation’s athletes and for the improved development in sports endeavors.”
The badminton quarrel centers around NT$109.2 million in a sponsorship deal with Yonex from 2011 to 2014, and a yearly NT$20 million deal that began last year.
Wang Tzu-wei (王子維), a silver medalist at the 2013 World Junior Championships, was fined for breaching association rules by not wearing a uniform provided by Yonex.
Although the association reduced the fine to NT$100,000, it was criticized when reports emerged that Wang’s working-class parents were selling meat buns at Taipei’ Ningsia Night Market (寧夏夜市) to help make the payment.
One official said Wang was only 18 at the time, so how could such a young man not yet working a regular job have money to pay such a fine.
“He was a rising star for Taiwan, but the association still wanted to punish him,” the official said.
Other top-level badminton players have sponsorship deals with sportswear companies other than Yonex, which has created problems.
The athletes say they have to honor their personal contracts and that they are not bound by the association’s deal with Yonex, because they were not consulted and did not give consent, while the money mostly went into the governing body’s coffers.
The association imposed a fine on Tai after she did not wear Yonex shoes during her run into the quarter-finals in Rio de Janeiro last month.
Tai has a sponsorship agreement with Victor, but association executives demanded that she wear Yonex footwear at the Olympics. As a compromise, Tai donned her shoes, but with the Victor logo obscured.
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