Ping pong PR

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Article from today’s Straits Times featuring the table tennis association president. The new Flipviewer feature in ST really makes for great web clippings 😀 Not so much for the PR folks though, as you can’t save the PDF.

 

What a PR gaffe! If you haven’t heard what happened, here’s the paper’s quick summary:

FURIOUS Singaporeans lambasted the shock decision by table tennis president Lee Bee Wah to remove team manager Antony Lee and to refer the fate of Liu Guodong, the team’s head coach, to a coaching committee.

By 8pm yesterday, The Straits Times received nearly 200 e-mails and letters from readers – almost all of whom voiced disbelief and outrage. Many more flamed Ms Lee in Internet blogs and postings.

Most of them took issue with the timing of the news, which came just before Singapore’s Olympic paddlers were due for a victorious homecoming this afternoon.

‘This sudden announcement has certainly cast a dark cloud over the shining achievements of the table tennis team,’ banker David Chee lamented.

‘Just as people should be given time to mourn their loss, they should also be given time to celebrate their achievements. Anything short of this is just plain disrespectful.’

Mr Lee was held responsible for Gao Ning’s third-round defeat in the men’s singles at the Games. Gao, the Republic’s top male paddler, had to play without a coach by his side.

As young sportsmen in the ACJC dragonboat team, we went through similar (but not on the same scale) issues with our teacher-in-charge. We were (and still are), the only JC team to win a local championship and an overseas championship in Hong Kong in the same year. What happened when we returned? Our captain Derek Cher (now in Heaven) was removed publicly from his post, and the team’s morale dropped to hell. All because the guys were a little rowdy at the celebration dim sum lunch (which I didn’t attend cos I fell sick).

Anyway, back to the current fiasco.

No matter the reason for firing the manager, the timing is just plain wrong. It throws another spanner into the debate about employing foreign talent to win medals for the group. Is our sports program meant to build champions or better employees?

When you fire people at whim, especially when the whole nation happens to be looking at the team, you’ll be severely scrutinised at all levels and experience alot of pre-judging by the public.

I’m not sure what kind of PR training or public exposure Ms Lee Bee Wah has experienced to date. But one thing is for sure, no matter what she does now, she must be prepared to be demonised for this one move – it took 48 years for the country to win an Olympic medal, and it took one decision to totally kill it.

Think about it this way – which foreign or local sportsman would want to help Singapore win its next medal from now? When champs are not even allowed to celebrate properly?

10 Replies to “Ping pong PR”

  1. @Teoh Yi Chie,

    Probably true. But from the news reported, sacking of coaches in the football leagues in Europe are of different reasons. Mostly because they fail in their duties, did not manage to meet targets, or have differences between the players or top management.

    However, for the ping pong case, the sacking is not only because of the failure to be present at the men’s single, but also when the silver Olympics medal has been won, which is ironic.

    Would this have happened when the gold medal is won instead?

  2. I think the team manager should be censured for taking for granted that Yang Zi’s match would not over-run into Gan Ning’s. But to fire the team manager (at such bad timing too) and to say the head coach’s contract lies in the hands of a coaching committee is a bit of an over-kill.

    While I feel sorry for Gao Ning that his efforts of the past 4 years have come to nought (but then again, who can g’tee that he’ll win something with a coach at his side), I think the punishment dealt has been overly harsh.

    Sigh.

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