Liberty Times (LT): Can you give specific examples of how sports policies under your auspices will differ from the past?
Kao Chin-hsung (高俊雄): President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has pledged to exponentially increase the agency’s budget within eight years. Premier William Lai (賴清德) has also announced three financial packages since assuming office, two of which are sports-related: sports facilities in the Forward-looking Infrastructure Development Program and increased funding for the East Asian Youth Games.
The Executive Yuan has set up a Sports Development Committee, which serves as a cross-ministry platform that is to coordinate allocation of the additional funding and resources.
Photo: Huang Yao-cheng, Taipei Times
The policies that created the Sports Administration — the promotion of competitive and general sports, and the establishment of competitive sports, general sports, infrastructure and international affairs divisions — are well thought out and need only slight tweaking.
Imagine the facade of an ancient Greek temple. At the top sits the International Sports Affairs Division, supported by three central pillars. The sports industry forms the heart of the temple, while competitive sports and general sports are the colonnades to either side. All of this is supported by basic sports education and sports infrastructure.
In short, the development of sports cannot lean on government subsidies forever. It must be supported by a sports industry. In other countries, competitive sports and general sports are a robust industry that can support the entire structure.
While the government has invested an unprecedented amount of public money in sports, the Sports Lottery, which funds the Sports Development Fund, and the Sports Industry Development Act (運動產業發展條例) are two more sources that help with the promotion of sports.
Some ancillary laws must be drafted, but overall these efforts will help increase the level of sports proficiency, as well as the competitiveness of the sports industry.
LT: Shortly after you assumed office, Taichung’s right to host the East Asian Youth Games was revoked. How should Taiwan respond?
Kao: China is attempting to block the Chinese Taipei membership that Taiwan uses to participate in international sports events, so that if Taiwan wants to regain membership, China would demand adherence to the precedent set by the nation’s WHO participation, with China acting on behalf of Taiwan. That is the goal of China’s suppression measures.
Under the 1981 agreement between the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Lausanne, Switzerland, and the Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee (CTOC), Taiwan has the same rights as all IOC members and stands on an equal footing with China.
This is the area where Taiwan is least impeded on the global stage. Considering all factors, we have concluded that as China’s global influence expands, it could use its political clout on the IOC Executive Board to blame Taiwan for the suspension of the East Asian Youth Games and propose to revoke Chinese Taipei’s membership.
According to the Olympic Charter, which was revised in 1996, if a member has been suspended and wants to regain membership, it needs to be an official member of an international organization to apply.
IOC member Wu Ching-kuo (吳經國) has said that the clause was put in place by then-IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch to prevent Catalonia from applying. Now, it might become a tool for China to exclude Taiwan.
In terms of countermeasures, first, we must strictly abide by the Lausanne agreement and secure our position in the IOC.
Wu has said that Taiwan must respond carefully and not give China an excuse or reason that would be accepted by the IOC.
The circumstances are similar to the 1970s, when Taiwan left the UN and was forced out of international organizations. The difference is, at the time Taiwan lost its membership and wanted to regain it, while now, Taiwan is a member, but it is under threat. Political factors caused both situations. The risk is considerable.
Second, strategic adjustments must be made in the face of resistance.
There is an incident that has not been reported. This year’s World University Roller Sports Championship was to be held in Taipei in October. Last month, the International University Sports Federation (FISU) unilaterally announced the cancelation of the event.
We discussed ways to respond to the situation. First, the Chinese Taipei University Sports Federation is to raise an objection with FISU, asking for the event to be held as planned or delayed until December.
If FISU does not agree, we will turn the event into an invitational tournament and host it as planned. This is also the procedure we will follow in other cases. We are creating an inventory of international competitions that we have been awarded to ensure that they will not be taken away.
Third, we are considering a “blue-water strategy.”
Right now, the two major mainstream sports systems in the world are the IOC series and the World Games categories. Apart from these, there are many other categories. Taiwan could create its own brand, like the William Jones Cup.
We could select sports in which Taiwan has an advantage and host “Taiwan Open” tournaments. Theformat would be similar to that of the four major championships in different sports, and we would use high monetary rewards and good competition environments to attract athletes from around the world.
LT: How will sports federations continue the reform efforts introduced by former director-general Lin Te-fu (林德福)?
Kao: With the exception of the Chinese Taipei Football Association, the 70-odd associations regulated by the National Sports Act (國家體育法) have fully re-elected their boards, with executive officers for each association already in place.
My understanding of sports groups is that they are partners of the government; an amendment to the National Sports Act has created a legal basis for this partnership.
In the next phase, the government and associations should set up communication channels to recognize that they are partners.
The associations are Taiwan’s only means of communication with other countries and as they double as national sports associations, they should be seen as public interest groups and allow full participation by the public.
It is sad to see that the ongoing reforms have not addressed public access to the associations.
As public interest groups subsidized by the government, associations should make their finances more transparent. They must also hire professionals as their secretaries-general.
The government’s evaluation process for these associations should, of course, be made transparent, while maintaining neutrality.
Before I took this post, I headed assessment groups for more than 43 sports groups. A common flaw across all these groups is weak financial accounting, with more than half falling into the “improvement needed” category.
According to the National Sports Act, association finances must be verified and cleared by professional accountants. This, of course, increases their overheads. My plan to reduce the associations’ expenditure on accountants is to introduce the online accounting system that the Ministry of Education has helped create for high schools and private schools.
LT: The FIFA World Cup just ended. Croatia, with a population of about 4 million people, finished second, proving that small countries can compete with world powers in soccer. Does Taiwan have any plans in this respect?
Kao: My colleagues and I have not discussed a timetable for professionalizing soccer. However, funding for six soccer fields and an estimated NT$2.4 billion (US$77.9 million) budget for soccer-related plans included in the Forward-looking Infrastructure Development Program provide a foundation for the further development of the sport.
If the soccer fields could follow the model of professional baseball’s development — the government provides the venue and allows companies to manage them on an operate-transfer model — we look forward to the fields being used for at least four major functions: competitions, training, recreation, and sports and recreational education.
We look forward to invigorating the fields and turning them into sports industry clusters, as mentioned in white papers on sports. Right now, Taichung has made the most progress. If the six fields could operate like this, I believe that the professionalization of soccer will naturally follow.
Translated by staff writers Jake Chung and Sherry Hsiao
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