Bench and Bar Games
We had the Bench and Bar Games over the May Day weekend.
Unfortunately for Singapore, we ended up with the Lawyers’ Mug. This brings it to 26 out of 42 Games since 1969 that we have ended up with the Lawyer’s Mug. Home advantage did not make a difference. This time round, there was some hope that we could reverse the trend. Up to the last game, the score was even at 6.5 all. Then we lost the last game, Premier Soccer.
Why is the result so predictable? Is it because we urbanites are softies compared with the more robust and sporty Malaysians? But then we had some rather urban games like squash which we lost, and some leisurely games like cricket, which we won. Is it the lack of a fighting spirit in us?
Could it also have to do with the lack of support from members? On this I must first confess that I had been amongst the non-supporters. I cannot remember the last time I attended the B&B Games. So what is it that keeps the members away?
I will try to analyse and seek out the possible reasons. But I welcome members to come up with their reasons and suggest how we can try to get more members to attend.
First, Singapore has never been a sporting nation. The emphasis has always been the pursuit of a better life through education and work. Perhaps the view that sports is a distraction from that pursuit of that which is perceived to bring material happiness is the real problem. For many of us who have been involved in the Bench and Bar, either as players, captains or administrators, it is difficult to explain or convince others that it is the pride of representing the legal fraternity of Singapore in the battlefield of sports, the hope eternal of pulling off a victory, and the eventual taste of success (hopefully) that keeps many of us going on for years. I don’t think that members stay away from the Games. I believe it’s more a situation where we are not able to maintain a sustained effort to reach out to our members. The B&B Games is something that you must experience to appreciate.
Second, do we have enough publicity? I well remember that in previous Games, I would come across one or two publicity flashes. And after that I would forget. But more importantly, the PR materials do not provoke a passion in me – that I must turn up to cheer my players.
Third, it is not just the lack of non-playing members. It is difficult to even get a team together sometimes. Have we become less sporty? I understand that some teams had very little practice as a team before they played their fateful game. Can we improve on that? One possible solution is to get the players interested long before the B&B Games. I would suggest that we encourage members to play their games on a regular basis. I know that for some games, that is the case. But where large teams are required, that is not always possible. But we do have the football tournaments between law firms. There is also a fairly regular badminton group. But maintaining the tempo is a challenge.
Fourth is of course the issue of time. We are in a very stressed society, with deadlines and bottom-lines. Also, because it is a long weekend, some of our members may have taken their holidays overseas. Can something be done about this?
Fifth and perhaps finally, is the issue of expenses. I was surprised, and perhaps appalled too, that players generally do not get full recompense for their expenses. This is of course a great sacrifice for the players. Not only do they give their time, they also have to pay for that privilege. While I appreciate that this is all in the spirit of fun and contribution to the profession, I think that costs in time and finance can no longer be ignored by the Society. This is especially so when we have to go up to Malaysia for the Games. So our ad hoc fund-raising is simply inadequate.
In contrast, the Malaysian Bar has a Sports Fund which raises about RM$130,000, ie, RM$10.00 from each of its 13,000 members. So should we have a Sports Fund too? How will members react to that? There are of course many sources for funds, other than members, and the Sports Convenors may want to look towards less traditional means to raise Funds.
On behalf of Council, I would like to say a big “thank you” to all the players, convenors, Sports Committee and committee chair Joseph Liow, as well as supporters who contributed by way of donations or attendance at the Games. Although we lost, it was a very enjoyable session, and I certainly look forward to the next Games.
► Wong Meng Meng, Senior Counsel
The Law Society of Singapore