When cabinet minister Gobind Singh Deo decided that one way of drawing the crowds to watch national channels RTM is to air the 2018 World Cup games by spending RM30 million (revised from RM40 million), football fans in Malaysia were jubilant.
Yesterday, Gobind revealed that half the total cost for the rights to air the matches from Russia has already been covered by sponsorships.
He said he has managed to obtain RM15 million of corporate sponsorship so far for the telecasts, and is still sourcing for more sponsors, adding that he might even be able to get excess of sponsorship for the costs.
One is bound to ask why even think of such an expenditure at a time when the government should be adopting belt-tightening and austerity measures.
The RM30 million total cost is RM10 million less than the ceiling rate placed by the Government. However, this piece of news came at about the same time when Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad announced the setting up of a “Tabung Harapan” fund for the public to contribute towards paying off the nation’s RM1 trillion national debt.
Netizens did not hesitate to criticise and point out the irony of seeking donations on the one hand but frivolous spending on the other hand.
Although Gobind had stated that he would try to cut the figure down by getting sponsors to defray the cost, one is bound to ask why even think of such an expenditure at a time when the government should be adopting belt-tightening and austerity measures.
In a tweet, former Information Minister Tan Sri Rais Yatim urged the ministry to be rational and save the country money by working hand in hand with private television station Astro in sharing the broadcast rights to the World Cup.
This means the Pay TV rights is taken by Astro while the Free to Air (FT) rights is taken by RTM for the games.
This will not be the first time RTM will be airing the World Cup. In 2010, RTM under Rais also did air 26 hours of the World Cup action from South Africa, although the sum then was not made known to the public, nor were the identities of the sponsors revealed.
A DAP old timer questioned if Gobind had stopped to think how his late father Karpal Singh would have responded should he hear of the audacious plan.
"When Pakatan Harapan won GE14 to become the government of the day, Gobind said he wished his father was alive to witness it. His father – dubbed the Lion of Jelutong for his vociferous roar never hesitated to take the Barisan Nasional government to task when it comes to imprudent spending of taxpayers’ money,"
One wonders if Deo senior would have given his blessings to Gobind for such an idea – RM30 million for World Cup when Malaysia is not even playing.
Another question that netizens are asking is whether Gobind may just do the nation a bigger favour if he would just channel that RM30 million to make our national football team world-class.