From March to May, there was hardly a ripple at the APS Swim School pools run by swimming icon Ang Peng Siong. The coronavirus outbreak meant the academy had “zero revenue” in the period, said the 57-year-old.
Government relief measures meant he benefited from a rental waiver for his school’s Farrer Park Swimming Complex base. But operational costs still ran up a five-figure bill, forcing APS to implement a 20 per cent wage cut for all its 15 full-time staff for two months.
With measures to curb the virus’ spread eased since June, the school has been able to go back to earning about 75 per cent of the revenue it did pre-outbreak, and staff wages have also risen to within 10 per cent of the original sums. But the struggle to stay afloat remains.
Thankfully for Mr Ang and his team, more government support is in the offing for private sports academies and clubs like APS. Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong yesterday announced in Parliament a Sports Resilience Package (SRP) that will see a further $25 million pumped into the sports sector as it deals with the effects of the outbreak.
This comes on the back of $25 million in relief measures for the industry that was announced in June.
The SRP comes in the form of $13.5 million in operating grants to help critical businesses offset operating costs from this month to March next year, and $11.5 million in capability development for the industry.
“It is definitely something we look forward to,” said Mr Ang. “The sports and arts industry is something that… is the soul and essence of the nation.”
The criteria and processes for the SRP operating grant will be announced by national sports agency Sport Singapore next month, although a Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) spokesman said businesses that “contribute to building our athlete pipelines”, such as private academies and clubs like APS, private league operators and facility operators, will be eligible. MCCY will provide a grant equivalent to about 25 per cent of each business’ total operating expenses, capped at $15,000 a month.
Noting the impact the outbreak has had on such operators, Mr Tong added: “We do not want these operators to be a casualty of the pandemic. Our sporting landscape with its broad spectrum of different options will be the poorer if that happens.”
The SRP also offers support measures to enhance capability development for those in the sports industry.
The Blended Initiative – launched in July to help events management companies and organisers adopt digitalisation as a core strategy – will be expanded to include private academies and clubs. Support will also be provided to businesses and self-employed persons in the sports industry to grow digital capabilities in areas like content development, while coaches can receive a training allowance of $10 an hour to take up CoachSG courses.
Level 2 and 3 coaches can also apply to participate in CoachSG’s structured mentorship programme.
National Under-19 floorball coach Sonia Chia co-developed online materials for CoachSG’s home-based learning packages. Under the new measures, the 36-year-old will be eligible for allowances if she continues to attend CoachSG workshops. On facing challenges of coaching digitally, Ms Chia said: “As coaches, a lot of times we advocate to our athletes the importance of the right mindset, perspective and adapting, and this (digitalisation) is a chance for us to do the same.”