Power game shifts to the High Court

By Chan Wai Kong

DRAMATIC MOVE: Legal challenge in Kuala Lumpur to the ouster of Badminton Asia Confederation chief

RUSSIAN Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev says: “Those who play badminton well can make quick decisions.”

As it is, quick and dramatic decisions were made across Asia of late, especially in Malaysia, where a controversial issue leaped from the badminton court into the High Court of Kuala Lumpur.

On March 17 in Bangkok, Katsuto Momii was ousted as president of the Badminton Asia Confederation (BAC) by a motion of no confidence in an extraordinary general meeting (EGM).

Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) president Datuk Seri Nadzmi Salleh became BAC acting president.

A BAC statement said: “The members were unanimous in their agreement that Mr Momii failed in his duties as a leader of the confederation.”

Momii is Japanese, and with his Bushido spirit is not going to bow out without a fight, and he has his allies.

Challenging the legality of the BAC action, a member of the confederation has filed a suit, and a Malaysian judge will look into the case tomorrow. Though the issue is of international proportion, it will go to a Malaysian court because the BAC is headquartered and registered in Kuala Lumpur.

As the acting president of BAC, Nadzmi should be, on paper, in a stronger position than his Indonesian rival, Justian Suhandinata, in the fight for the Badminton World Federation (BWF) presidency on May 18. But he has since changed his mind, despite having declared in January that he would not withdraw from the race.

When both the officials were nominated in February to run against Europe’s Poul Erik Hoyer (who had 52 nations supporting him), Justian secured 24 seconders while Nadzmi got only two. Clearly Justian was the one who had a better shot at the post compared with Nadzmi.

On March 24, barely 24 hours after Nadzmi became the BAC acting president, there was a change of script after Justian had a table talk with Nadzmi.
Following the powwow, Nadzmi, the former chairman of Proton, gave up his bid for the BWF presidency.

To many badminton followers, it appears to be a divide and rule deal — Nadzmi to head Asia and Justian to go for the world.
Nadzmi, in coming to what is seen as a compromise with Justian, said he backed out of the BWF election for the sake of Asian solidarity, as he did not want Asian votes to be split, which would benefit Hoyer.

Nadzmi’s explanation may sound sensible but his denouncers say the Asian votes have been compromised, as Momii’s allies, believed to be about 20 Asian nations, will throw their support behind Hoyer, a former Olympic badminton champion, in a counterstroke.

A forewarning is that only 12 out of the 41 members of the BAC were willing to attend the EGM in Bangkok that kicked out Momii. The Lebanon Badminton Federation filed a suit and an injunction to stop the EGM but without success.

However, Nadzmi’s talk of “Asian solidarity” has hit a raw nerve with supporters of former Kuala Lumpur Badminton Association president Datuk Seri Andrew Kam Tai Yeow. They pointed out that there was no “Malaysian solidarity” when Kam contested the 2009 BWF presidency in Guangzhou, China.

In that election, Kam, a prominent businessman and lawyer by profession, finished second to Kang Young Joong, a South Korean billionaire who has made his fortune in children education.

Ironically, Kam, who was nominated by the Australian BA, found himself contesting on an uneven playing field that was seen to have been tilted by BAM, which opted to support Kang. That is what the critics are saying.

Remarkably, Kam, who was virtually “campaigning on his own”, managed to garner a veritable 70 votes from more than 40 countries despite the odds stacked against him.

Kam, who was BWF honorary legal adviser, is a familiar name to the federation’s 169 member countries after winning a “court case” for the world body.

In 2007, the Russian Badminton Federation (RBF) took the BWF to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne, Switzerland. The previous year, the world body had stopped recognising the RBF as its member after it lost its legal status in Russia. The RBF challenged the decision, but the arbitration court ruled in favour of BWF.

Kam must have felt he was denied a golden opportunity to become the BWF president in the coming election. In retrospect, the Kuala Lumpur Racket Club (KLRC) president was approached by some badminton groups to contest the presidency, but he did not want to stand in the way of Nadzmi, who had announced in August last year that he was contesting.

But following the turn of events, which saw Nadzmi going out of the BWF arena, it is too late for Kam to go in because the door to the presidential office is now shut as the nomination deadline was Feb 22.

As a result, there will be no Malaysians to capitalise on “home ground advantage” for the top post in the BWF election in Kuala Lumpur.

Kam, who has given time and money to badminton through his club, KLRC, whose training programmes have also attracted players from other countries, is not discouraged. He said he hoped to play a key role at national level in enriching Malaysia’s pool of talents.

Having produced a world junior champion in Zulfadli Zulkifli, whom he discovered at the age of 13, Kam is now backing Zulfadli to win the 2016 Olympic gold.

But seven weeks from now, when the World Badminton Federation election is held in Kuala Lumpur, regretfully no Malaysian will be around to contest the No. 1 post.