INNOVATION AND INITIATIVE
FM League strives to be a leading light for our community. Experienced athletes and long-standing supporters in Singapore have already seen our achievements in improving and expanding the local competition stage, both figuratively and literally, beyond anything ever seen in Singapore’s history. This, however, is only the first step.
In addition to the ongoing innovations in how we organize and execute our championships, FM League will launch initiatives in an effort to strengthen and expand our community. These initiatives will be announced so that everyone knows what we are doing and can understand what we are trying to achieve.
Announcing these initiatives also tells the community FM League’s long-term vision, the depth of the strategic planning that is underway, and our ambition to forge a path to a far better future for our sport.
The first initiatives will be announced in the coming weeks, and others will be introduced over time. Some will be ongoing initiatives while others will last for specified periods of time. In structuring and announcing our efforts in this way, FM League will communicate its goals and hold itself accountable to them in public, leading to greater transparency in the community. And in doing this, we hope others will follow our lead in innovating towards the future.
BUILDING A BETTER COMMUNITY INITIATIVE
In October 2015, FM League published a Code of Conduct for its officials and volunteers. To improve governance, it was important to hold FM League’s own personnel accountable to certain standards. As of February 2016, we are announcing a CODE OF CONDUCT FOR ATHLETES, effective immediately. This is to provide community rules for a rapidly growing sport in Singapore.
In all FM League championships going forward, athletes’ applications will be reviewed for compliance with the Code of Conduct. An application to a championship will be like an application to a private university: subject to review by a committee. The proceedings of FM League’s Review Committee will be completely confidential. Applicants who are rejected will be informed of the rejection, but no reason will be given, no appeal is possible, and no refund will be made of any application fees paid. We expect that only a very small number of applications will be rejected per championship.
It also means that there is a significant advantage in submitting an early application. The earlier an athlete submits an application, the earlier the athlete will find out whether he/she has been rejected, avoiding any unnecessary preparation and cost. We have no firm timeline around how often the Review Committee will meet, but we will endeavor to inform rejected athletes within one month of their application. Accepted athletes will receive no confirmation as the vast majority of athletes will be accepted.
Rejected applicants can reapply for any future championship, and another review will be conducted at that time. A prior rejection does not mean an athlete will be rejected in the future. The most important factor in the Review Committee’s decision is how an athlete has conducted themselves in the recent past vis-à-vis the Code of Conduct.
There will be no process for athletes to inquire beforehand on whether they are likely to be rejected. There are too many athletes and each review takes time, so to ensure a fair and uniform handling we will only review an application after it is made for a particular championship. We will make no exceptions.
As a guideline, minor violations of the Code of Conduct will negatively affect an athlete’s applications for two years, while major breaches will have a negative effect for five or more years. Outstanding positive conduct by an athlete, such as being a very good role model or contributing selflessly to the community, can counter the effects of an athlete’s violations of the Code of Conduct in the evaluation by the Review Committee.
CODE OF CONDUCT FOR ATHLETES
FM League’s Code of Conduct for Athletes will be published on its website soon. Athletes are required to read the full Code of Conduct, but a summary is provided here:
- CONFLICTS: Athletes must not have any contractual conflicts or any serious conflicts of interest.
- ROLE MODELS: Athletes must not have: (a) been involved in acts of moral turpitude; (b) been involved in acts that seriously offend public morality, such as pornography; (c) demonstrated unsportsmanlike behavior; and/or (d) been a bad role model for the community.
- RESPECT OF OFFICIALS AND RULES: Athletes must not act with disrespect towards FM League’s officials and must not show disregard for the rules and procedures of FM League’s championships and events.
- 30-DAY RULE: Athletes must not enter into another competition 30 days before to 30 days after the FM League championship the athletes compete in, to avoid athletes over-competing. This is an absolute cut-off and applies regardless of whether the other competition is run by FM League or another organizer.(For example, if an athlete enters a FM League championship on 1 April, the athlete must not enter another competition between 2 March and 1 May, both dates inclusive. Entering a competition on 1 March or before and 2 May or after is fine. If an athlete applies for two FM League championships that are within 30 days of each other, which is possible given that FM League’s calendar will become busier in future years, the athlete will be automatically rejected from one.)
(Over-competing results in athletes taking the stage in sub-optimal condition and hinders the longer term development of athletes. More seriously, attempting to peak twice in a 30-day period causes unnecessary stress to the body and can in some cases result in serious health complications. FM League will strictly enforce the 30-day rule to ensure that athletes compete in a responsible manner.)
- ANNUAL LIMIT: Athletes should not enter an excessive number of championships, whether run by FM League or another organizer, to avoid athletes over-competing. There is no absolute cut-off, though bodybuilders should try to limit themselves to one championship per twelve-month period and other athletes should try to limit themselves to two championships per twelve-month period.
- TROPHY CHASING: Athletes must not participate in another organizer’s event to win a title that is substantially similar to that of FM League’s championship titles, such as anything containing the words “Mr Singapore”, “Muscle War”, “Physique War”, etc.(Whatever the motivations of the organizers that create such events, FM League considers the athletes who enter far less competitive events to pursue titles similar to FM League’s titles to be making a misrepresentation to the community, devaluing the achievements of better and more established athletes.)
(FM League will waive this rule if, in its sole judgment, the other championship is of at least similar quality and standing, or if FM League is unable to make a determination because the championship was held in another country. Note it is our judgment that within Singapore right now, there are no events with similar titles that are remotely close to being of at least similar quality and standing.)
- MISREPRESENTING TITLES: Athletes must not consistently misrepresent the titles they have won in championships, whether run by FM League or another organizer, such as listing “SFMS Nationals Physique Champion” rather than “SFMS Nationals Physique Class H Winner” which implies the athlete won an overall title rather than a class title.
TRUTH IN MARKETING INITIATIVE
FM League is fighting to counter negative trends in the community. One such trend is that the marketing by event organizers has become extremely misleading, especially when it involves cash prizes. It has become the norm for organizers to post advertisements like “$10,000 in cash and prizes!” There are three problems with this:
- The cash portion is often very small, say $500.
- The remaining $9,500 worth of prizes is often complete fiction. For example, a tub of protein that has a wholesale price of $40 and that athletes often buy on sale for $60 will be calculated at a “full retail price” of $270, and cosmetics with a wholesale cost of $25 might be “valued” at $500.
- The non-cash prizes are whatever advertisers want to give and often of little value to the athlete. For example, a free annual gym membership is valued at $1,800 but the athlete already has two memberships at gyms he likes and does not need a third, while spa treatments “worth $1,200” will never be used.It is absurd that the overall champion at an event advertising “$10,000 in cash and prizes” may end up with $400 in cash, two tubs of protein, and various items of dubious value. This, FM League feels, is an unethical practice.
We wish to be clear that FM League strongly believes that prize money should NOT motivate amateur athletes. An athlete should be driven to compete at the highest level possible, on the best stage possible, against the strongest competitors possible. Period. As such, prior to 2016, FM League never advertised the prize money available for its championships. (In 2014, for example, S$5,000 in cash prizes were awarded at its Mr Singapore Bodybuilding Championship. SFMS – Nationals the same year also issued cash prizes. Both were never advertised.)
Having said this, it is important for FM League to set the tone for the local community on this issue. As such, FM League has begun announcing its cash prizes for its various championships in 2016 and going forward. It will do so with the following rules:
- The Cash Prize amount must always be clearly and separately specified. The use of “Cash and Prizes” and similar phrases to lump cash prizes together with the “value” of non-cash prizes is prohibited. The accepted form will be “$A in Cash Prizes and $B in Non-Cash Prizes”.
- If an event has Cash Prizes, a minimum dollar figure must be advertised. The use of “Cash Prizes Available” and similar phrases without stating a dollar figure is prohibited.
- If there are non-cash prizes, whether products, services, or sponsorships, the value stated will be the purchase price typically available in the market, after discounts. If the value of non-cash prizes is large, it must be separately identified, eg: “$A in Cash Prizes, $B in Sponsorships, $C in Gym Memberships, $D in Other Non-Cash Prizes”.
- A breakdown of the Cash Prizes awarded must be accounted for on social media within one month of the championship if not already clearly specified before the event. The specific amounts awarded for each individual winner (e.g. 1st Place, 2nd Place, etc…) must be stated.
- In the event the full advertised Cash Prize amount was not awarded, an explanation to the community must be posted on social media within one month of the championship.
SUPPORTING A STRONGER ECOSYSTEM INITIATIVE
FM League is committed to building up the community for our sport. This includes ensuring that the overall ecosystem that our community depends on is healthy. This ecosystem includes athletes, supporters, event organizers, gyms, fitness industry companies, clients, and so on. A key dimension of any ecosystem is financial: opportunities, jobs, sponsorships, etc.
The reality is that the vast majority of amateur sports in the vast majority of countries are underfunded or unfunded. And the ecosystems they depend on are weak. It is difficult for athletes to make a living or get decent opportunities. This financial reality will not change.
The simple fact is: Athletes must pursue the sport out of passion, first and foremost.
We cannot escape the force of gravity imposed by financial reality, here in Singapore or anywhere else in the world. But FM League is committed to a long-term view of improving things where possible. We cannot discuss the broad strategy we have in the coming years to try to do this. Nor can we make any commitments to the community on what we will achieve.
But, in the here and now, FM League is announcing that it will award at least S$100,000 in Cash Prizes in its championships over the two-year period of 2016 and 2017. More of this will be awarded in 2017 since more events are planned, but the total over the two years will be a minimum of S$100,000 in cash. Additional non-cash prizes will be given out as usual, but these will not be advertised.
This S$100,000 in cash represents FM League’s concrete commitment to supporting our community. It is where we begin.
NATIONAL TEAM INITIATIVE
FM League will begin building a National Team for Singapore athletes in our sport. The National Team will include a Professional team and an Amateur team.
This effort will take time, as we have an ambitious vision. We are not looking to emulate the past, when government support was substantial, athletes were few, and the sport was very different. That was the past, and we prefer not to walk in anyone’s footsteps.
We are looking to create something that will be universally regarded as THE platform for Singapore’s best athletes of the coming generation.
Entry into the National Team will be by invitation only, though athletes are free to express interest. To be eligible for the National Team, athletes must have competed in a FM League championship at the most competitive level and excelled. An athlete must step on our stage so that the entire community in Singapore is able to judge for itself whether an athlete admitted to the National Team was worthy of the accolade. This is important to the transparency of the process and to the legitimacy of the team.
FM League will invest heavily into the National Team in the coming years. As such, in addition to performing well at a FM League championship, there will be other strict criteria to be on the team. One is that athletes who compete under the Singapore name with any other organization are not eligible for a period of ten years to join the National Team.
(Such athletes can still apply to enter FM League championships, and their applications will be evaluated holistically vis-à-vis the published Code of Conduct for Athletes.)
More information on the National Team will become publicly available in the coming months.