SAA seeks funds to keep elite athletes in Taiwan

MONEY TALKS::The administration is hoping to prevent sports stars like Hsieh Su-wei from following the example of a billiards player who switched his allegiance to China

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

Wed, Jul 10, 2013 - Page 4

The Sports Affairs Administration (SAA) yesterday said it aims to provide private-sector funding for at least 50 athletes a year in a bid to keep talented sportsmen and sportswomen in Taiwan rather than have them seek opportunities elsewhere.

The plan was unveiled after the father of Hsieh Su-wei (謝淑薇), the first Taiwanese tennis player to win a Grand Slam, indicated that she was approached by a Chinese liquor company willing to offer her about NT$50 million (US$1.6 million) per year to play in professional tournaments on the condition that she switch her allegiance to China.

The news once again put the issue of inadequate funding for Taiwanese athletes in the spotlight. In 2011 professional billiards player Wu Jia-qing (吳珈慶) switched his allegiance to China, while golf star Yani Tseng (曾雅妮) was also reportedly tempted to do likewise.

News about the offer to Hsieh motivated Legislative Speaker Wang Jing-pyng (王金平) to host a fundraising banquet attended by some of the nation’s major enterprises on Monday night, including Hon Hai Precision Industry Co, HTC and Ruentext Group. The event raised NT$200 million.

On the same day the SAA promised to boost private-sector funding for professional athletes and said it would offer Hsieh a salaried teaching post at a university.

Yesterday the SAA said that it aims to attract 100 or more private-sector sponsors for sports each year and generate corporate funding for at least 10 sports events. The total funding could top NT$100 million per year.

The SAA said that athletes would be selected for funding based on their potential, backgrounds and sports. Corporations could choose which athletes to sponsor based on this information, the administration said.

To facilitate sponsorship by the private sector, the SAA said it would establish a one-stop service to help match athletes with sponsors.

The SAA said funding would be placed in a bank account and used specifically for sport, with use of the money audited and transparent.

In related news, Taiwan Tobacco and Liquor Company (TTL), the firm that produces Taiwan Beer, has expressed an interest in Hsieh acting as an official brand ambassador for the beverage.

“Hsieh’s story of seeking a personal breakthrough corresponds to the corporate image of Taiwan Beer,” TTL chairman Hsu An-hsuan (徐安琁) said.

Additional reporting by staff writer