Taiwan Power Co (Taipower) on Wednesday denied it had immediate plans to dissolve the six sports teams it sponsors, following a revelation by a whistleblower.
Taipower, which has often been accused of mismanagement and wasteful practices, reported operational expenses and alleged losses in the range of NT$10 billion (US$333.2 million) per year.
Critics say Taipower’s attempt to save about NT$100 million by terminating sports team sponsorship would be “a very irresponsible decision.”
According to sources, during a recent Welfare Committee meeting of Taipower’s employee union, an officer proposed disbanding the company’s six amateur teams, covering baseball, soccer, men’s and women’s volleyball, women’s basketball, and women’s badminton.
The whistleblower said the committee took up the proposal and forwarded it to the Taipower board of directors for a final decision.
Critics pointed to a number of government audit reports, revealing Taipower’s profligate use of public money. One report by the National Audit Office showed the state utility misused its neighborhood development fund, spending NT$1 billion from the fund in the past 10 years.
Another investigation pointed to some Taipower employees contriving ways to raise their retirement pensions. This resulted in the state utility allocating an extra NT$180 million annually to pay for retired workers.
An investigation by the Control Yuan in 2008, revealed an annual loss of NT$20 billion by Taipower from heat leakage on substandard electricity transmission lines alone.
Critics said that just reducing this wastage of funds would save enough to support the sports teams for years to come.
Taipower spokesman Roger Lee (李鴻洲) admitted on Wednesday that a proposal had been made to disband the Taipower-sponsored amateur sports teams in a union meeting two weeks ago.
However, he denied that a move was imminent.
“Taipower will take account of its responsibility to society, so right now, Taipower will not consider dissolving the teams,” he said.
He said the Taipower board of directors had held its meeting recently and that the matter did not come up for discussion.
“If Taipower were to think about dissolving the teams, a full discussion process would be needed. Right now we will continue to operate the teams. We will not quit so easily,” Lee said.
Each of the Taipower-sponsored teams has made substantial contributions to amateur sports in Taiwan over the decades.
The Taipower soccer team is a perennial powerhouse and many players in the national soccer squad have come from the team. Also Taipower men’s and women’s volleyball teams have for many years helped to develop top players for international competition.
Team rosters range from about a dozen to more than 30 players, with a total of 150 for all six teams. Each team’s yearly expenses are between NT$10 million and NT$20 million, comprising wages, equipment, facilities and rent, amounting to annual cost of about NT$100 million to sponsor the teams.
“Looking at NT$100 million, this is only small change compared to the money wasted by Taipower each year. However, this small change is representative of our nation’s power and honor. It is unbelievable that the plug could be pulled on these teams,” the whistleblower said.
Manager of Taipower soccer team Chen Kuei-jen (陳貴人) also weighed in.
“Our players’ performances have done Taipower proud They deserve the support they receive and it is disheartening to hear that Taipower wants to scrap the team,” Chen said.
Head coach of Taipower baseball team Chen Chi-hsiang (陳哲祥) said that his team has more than 70 years of history.
“Because Taipower has long supported amateur baseball to cultivate local talent, Taiwan now has stars like Wang Chien-ming [王建民] and Team Taiwan has enjoyed good results in international competitions. We have produced many good players who went on to the pro teams. The value of a team is not measured by mere money alone,” Chen said.
Chien Wei-chuan (錢薇娟) head coach of Taipower women’s basketball team was worried.
“If the government does not voice its support, then our nation’s highest level competition, the Women’s Super Basketball League could cease to operate. After its eighth season, now only four struggling clubs remain. If the historic trademark Taipower team folds, the league cannot continue with just three teams,” she said.
Additional reporting by Jordan Huang,
Wang Bei-lin and Hsu Ming-li