Today there are about 30 hockey turf grounds in Malaysia and the turfs need replacement every 3 to 4 years depending on how well they are maintained. The average cost of replacement varies from RM$1.2m to RM$2.0m, depending on extent of work. Therefore the turf business every 3 years or thereabouts generates RM$36.0m to RM$60.0m. This figure excludes any new hockey grounds that are being built.
Last year saw Johor having 2 new pitches being laid in preparation of the Junior World Cup 2009, while Malacca also had undertaken a replacement for 1 pitch and added a new 2nd pitch to fulfill international requirements.
Interesting gossips have evolved from Johor and Malacca of the business nature of the contracts that seem to have left an unsavory "after taste" with the suppliers or their agents. The rumours seem to reflect the hazardous journeys the suppliers or agents have to undertake to secure the contract. The euphoria of winning and securing the contact seem to be short lived, especially when the work is completed, for they do not get paid. At least this is the version of story that is floating around the hockey circles.
Much talked is about Johor and the troubled agent, who has to make regular trips from "Down Under" to literally beg for the settlement of amounts due to him. Mind you this is even after the Junior World Cup tournament is over. This poor chap, a former Malaysian hockey international, had apparently extended his goodwill and hospitality when the Malaysian hockey team visited Australia in early 2008. Feeling comfortable, thereupon it is told that he worked closely with certain personalities to secure the contract. The good side, he got the deal but the bad side he is still not paid, at least based on market talk in the beginning of August 2009.
Similar story seems to emerge from Malacca hockey ground too. Here, the supplier is a known person in the turf business and in the past seems to have the major slice of the Malaysia hockey turf market. His outfit was responsible for the work in Malacca and on completion he was expecting the payments but apparently it was unusually delayed. Various communications including sms ( i am unable to verify this part of the story) seem to indicate certain condition precedents need to be fulfilled to finalise the matter. It is alleged that the source from which such communication had arisen seem to point towards another known figure in Malaysian hockey.
While payments are an issue with Johor and Malacca hockey grounds, there is something that is brewing at Pantai hockey ground ie the Ministry of Education's pitch. The pitch had been in a deplorable state for some time and there had been exercises to replace it but it never materialised. This time there is a serious intent and a tender has been floated for the works at the pitch. There seems to be keen interest among various suppliers and some form of competitive pricing is expected.
The story here takes an interesting flavour as the outfit who had the biggest slice of the turf market lost one of their agency rights for a particular kind of turf. The new benefactor of that turf has roped in a new partner, who is a very renowned name in Malaysian sports and had been in world hockey. A young and highly likeable person, he takes his job professionally. His reputation usually precedes him, which has become his great asset. and as such there are people who are always ready to be helpful to him.
This scenario has created not only a competitive outlook but also an envious one. The "battle" is on to see who secures this deal. There has been a bit of "mud slinging" but the newcomer to the turf business remains cool and focused to secure the deal ie a "gentleman of business".
The "battle" shall be further escalated when 2 other hockey grounds need their turf to be replaced. The "Jewel of the Crown" is Bukit Jalil's main hockey stadium and the other being UMIT's ground. Both of these are going to set parties to bid against one another and the question is what strategy are they going to adopt. This probably shall determine how clean or dirty the turf business is going to be.
Whoever takes these 3 hockey grounds would surely be securing a good part of this year's and probably next year's turf business. Therefore it would not be unusual to see the "battle lines"
being drawn, so long it does not degenerate to personal and unsavory business tactics.
All in all it would seem nothing is as simple as it meets the eyes. It is made complicated because of greed that encourages unscrupulous ways. These are the elements that permit corners to be cut and as a result everything ends badly ie short of quality. Probably that is the price we pay when we forego good governance.