Wed, Apr 19, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Appearance fees for athletes are divisive

SPORTS LAW:DPP Legislator Huang Kuo-shu is hosting hearings on amending the National Sports Act, but even athletics associations cannot agree on all the proposals

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

A runner wearing a Taiwan-themed T-shirt holds the national flag as he nears the finish line of the Boston Marathon in Boston, Massachusetts, on Sunday.

Photo: CNA / Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Boston

Sports industry representatives at a public hearing yesterday could not agree on whether a requirement for an athlete to receive an appearance fee for representing the nation in sports events should be included in the National Sports Act (國民體育法).

Sports associations that receive less government funding said that they would have trouble meeting such a requirement.

The hearing in Taipei was one of a series being hosted by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Huang Kuo-shu (黃國書) in response to calls from the public to amend the National Sports Act.

Participants were asked to comment on whether an athlete’s appearance fee should be paid by sports associations if they were invited to compete on behalf of the nation in for-profit games, on insurance for athletes and on arbitration in the case of disputes among the athletes, coaches or sports associations.

Jang Tsong-rong (張聰榮), an associate professor at National Taiwan University of Sport who is also the Chinese Taipei Wrestling Association chairman, said funding for wrestling matches comes mostly from sponsors, unlike baseball, basketball and volleyball events.

Athletes’ registration fees are used to pay for insurance and medals, while the association has to cover the cost of hiring coaches and hosting events, he said.

The wrestling association did not provide additional appearance fees for athletes, he said.

Chinese Taipei Football Association (CTFA) secretary-general Chen Wei-jen (陳威任) said his group has paid about NT$10 million (US$328,882) in appearance fees and performance bonuses to players on the men’s and women’s teams between 2015 and last year, more than some sports associations’ budgets.

“If you include a requirement for an appearance fee in the act, you will force these small associations to enforce it. This would create a quagmire for them,” Chen said, adding that an appearance fee should be determined by and arranged for by each sports association, but not be made mandatory.

Making payment of an appearance fee mandatory could increase tensions between athletes and their associations, he said.

“Athletes might wonder why one person’s appearance fee is higher than theirs if they are playing in the same soccer league. Players might never be satisfied with the appearance fee they get. A worst-case scenario would be one athlete refusing to join a national team if they do not get the appearance fee they think they deserve,” he said.

Soccer commentator Max Shih (石明瑾) said that while the amount of appearance fees varies depending on a sports association’s funding, all professional athletes should be paid appearance fees, regardless of how much they earn.

As an example, he said Wayne Rooney received a weekly salary of £25,000 (US$31,715) as a Manchester United player, but was still paid an appearance fee of £1,000 for playing for the English national soccer team.

Former Taiwan women’s national soccer team captain Chen Shu-chung (陳淑瓊) was forced to retire from sports at the age of 25 because she was constantly being fired from her day jobs when she would tell her bosses that she needed to take one or two months off to play for the national team, Shih said.

Chen Shu-chung has said that her life was severely disrupted by her desire to play for the nation, he said.

“Should we not pay these athletes to cover their expenses during the one or two months in which they play for the nation?” he said.

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