Focus on Partnership Deloitte and Sport Singapore

James Walton, Goal!

James Walton, Deloitte’s Deputy Clients & Markets Leader for Singapore and Southeast Asia, shares with The Starting Line on Deloitte’s involvement with Team Singapore and Sport Singapore.

Since the inaugural 2010 Summer Youth Olympic Games in Singapore,  the relationship between Deloitte and sporting Singapore  is consistently a strong one, with you playing a key role in nurturing this relationship.  Why the personal belief in sports?

I am a long-time expat Englishman who has been with Deloitte for 15 years and worked in over 50 countries with them in that time. I have been in Singapore for over four years now and I have very much endeared myself to this great country.  While my day job as the head of marketing, communications, brand and business development for Southeast Asia and Singapore, even as I age (not so gracefully!), I consider myself foremost a sportsman.  I was a football player until osteoarthritis in my knees ended my competitive playing days at the age of 17.  Despite my condition, I continue to play recreationally now because of my  love of the game. 

Deloitte is a known brand globally and a leader in innovation.  In your opinion, how big of a role does innovation play in shaping the sporting Singapore ecosystem?

Singapore’s entire success story is based on innovation: for a small country, with limited natural resources and a tiny population, to ascend to such a position in the world economy in such a short time is nothing short of a miracle that requires constant innovation.  Innovation doesn’t always need to be big earth-shattering ideas as often times small ideas can add up to improvements in everyday lives. 
With respect to sports in Singapore, innovation is key to future success.  With a smaller talent pool, the tradition of sport in Singapore is precariously pitched at a unique position. In order for Singapore to develop world-class athletes, we cannot just hope to find a diamond amongst thousands of hopefuls as the odds will never be in our favour.  What we need to do is to give  deliberate and careful focus on athletes in sports where results and success can be achieved, and then inject innovativation in areas like training, nutrition, data analytics of performance and match strategy to give us that doggedness to compete  with the best from the  bigger nations. 

What are some of the more memorable campaigns that Deloitte has embarked on with Sport Singapore and what is the motivation behind such a close partnership? 

We have been a partner in the sporting Singapore scene for a number of years already, going back to the inaugural Singapore Youth Olympic Games in 2010 where we were privileged to be an official sponsor. Since then, we continued our sporting endeavour as a partner of the Spex Business network and as recent as a couple of months ago, we are proud to be the  Official Professional Services Partner for the 28th SEA GamesI it’s been non-stop action for all of us here at Deloitte.
Amongst the many memorable moments we have had so far, the absolute highlight has got to be helping to run a camp for allTeam Singapore athletes and para athletes. The art collage exercise was immense fun and a lot of athletes contacted me afterwards to say what a great time they had and how many new friends they had made. I hope that we had made a small contribution in helping to build camaraderie and team spirit amongst all these athletes ahead of the 28th SEA Games.

What are the more memorable sporting moments that you’ve experienced overseas?

There are too many to name. I guess from a personal point of view – every time I finish a marathon, it is an emotional moment. But my absolute highlight was going to the World Cup in Brazil this summer and watching six games, including Brazil’s shootout win over Chile when I thought the stadium was going to explode – first with tension, then with joy.

What are your thoughts about Team Singapore and how, if at all, does Singapore’s culture need to change to become more of a sporting culture? 

Very few Asian societies have really put sport at the forefront in away that Western countries have done over the years. This is in part due to other priorities for developing nations and partially a cultural issue, it seems. To be honest, as long as sport in Singapore is not a viable career financially and with the lack of incentives, there will always be pressure fromparents for athletes to focus on academic laurels and to eventually choose respected careers either as doctors, lawyers, etc.
The spexScholarship Programme by Sport Singapore and Singapore Sports Institute  to me is a step in the right direction towards solving this – the idea of trying to support athletes so that career/studies and athletic pursuits are not mutually exclusive .  It is possible to study for a degree and still compete at an elite level, and to balance a career with the rigours of training if you pick your employer wisely and find a supportive environment.  There are some incredible role models in this regard – in the netball team to see players like ‘Dr Prem’ and Deloitte’s own  Micky Lin, who is an Assistant Manager with us and an SMU marketing graduate, to see that those ladies have got the balance right.

James with national netballers, Micky Lin and Charmaine Soh

James with members of the National Womens Netball team

Does Deloitte as a company place emphasis on a sporting culture and healthy living? Also, what are your favourite sports and how frequent do you exercise?

Deloitte is focused on making an impact in everything we do and we have four shared values as an organisation: Strength through diversity, Commitment to each other; Integrity and Outstanding value to markets and clients. We definitely have a sporting culture as we have a very young population in the firm and sports is a great way to build team spirit and to help them unwind. We have more than 20 sports teams which are funded by the companyfrom football to basketball, dragon boating to touch rugby. We have enjoyed some great recent successes in corporate competitions, particularly in table tennis, badminton, tennis, floorball and women’s football.  Our netball ladies are the stars though, having won two consecutive M1 Corporate Challenges in style. 
As for myself, I still player football regularly for the firm, in a social league and I run competitively. I have 18 London Marathons under my belt and a few ultramarathons (winning the 100km Duo at the Northface Thailand in 2013). Beyond that, I pretty much play any sport whenever I get the chance to and I seem to pick any sport up quickly.

James and the Deloitte Team at a local sports tournament

James at a local Football tournament with the Deloitte team

What are your feelings about the new Singapore Sports Hub and what are yourpredictions for Team Singapore at the coming 28th SEA Games?  

I love it… what a facility! The Singapore Sports Hub is the perfect platform towards achieving sporting excellence. I seem to spend a lot of time there due to the spexScholarship Programme  and our ongoing work with the 28th SEA Games and I have also taken in some sporting events including the AFF Suzuki Cup as well as the international friendly match between Japan and Brazil.  Oh and not forgetting the Mission Foods Asian Netball Championships too. These facilities are truly world-class and I hear a lot moreexciting things are still to come. 
For the 28th SEA Games, I hope it will be raining medals for all our athletes.  I am lucky to know many of our athletes personally and  my wish is that for everyone to achieve what they set out to do at the Games.  I have only one prediction and that is on occasion of Singapore’s 50th birthday, , I believe all Singaporeans from all walks of life will give their upmost support  for the athletes with one  spirit and one voice that we have never felt before in this country. The power of 5 million voices shouting as one is awe-inspiring and I hope that Singapore comes out in force to cheer each and every athlete and recognise the sacrifices they have made every day to represent the nation.

James with para-athlete, Jason Chee
James with Jason Chee, Singapore National Para Athlete.

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