A man once said "Change is at the very core of evolution and without it, all creatures would look alike and behave the same way"... wouldn't you agree? Where are we now for Singapore paintball? Are we already part of an evolution or are we at a standstill right now? Competitive paintball was first introduced to Singapore in 2008, 3 years of promotion and development; we now have a seasoned paintball series, the Singapore Paintball Series (SPS) (www.singaporepaintballseries.com) which caters to an active paintball community. There is an estimation of up to 400 regular paintball players in Singapore and about 30 active paintball teams. Progressively, we also have a group of dedicated referees who are passionate about developing paintball refereeing in Singapore. Many local teams and players have also taken on higher responsibilities by competing in overseas tournaments such as the Malaysia Paintball Official Circuit (MPOC), the Malaysia National Paintball League (MY-NPL) and Paintball Asia League Series (PALS) and delivered impressive results doing Singapore based teams proud in the regional circuit. These progressive changes to the local scene have been evident with overseas teams speaking well of Singapore’s increase participation and performance of local based teams in overseas tournaments. Unlike a few years ago where there were no paintball enthusiasts in Singapore, many things about the sport have changed and looks promising in years to come. While things may seem to have taken off, there are many areas that are still left untouched and under developed.
Paintball Association (Singapore), PBAS which was formed in 2007 has come a long way from formative days to the organization of Singapore’s first paintball tournament in 2008, the Singapore Paintball Novice Series (SPNS). The idea of forming an association was mooted with aims of creating awareness about competitive paintball in Singapore and to promote tournament paintball with a structural system complete with paintball refereeing and coaching. Meetings with the Singapore Sports Council (SSC) for SPNS looked promising with sponsorship reimbursement under the Sports Partnership Promotion Program in 2008 and 2009. Envisioning a progressive path to address the restriction on how paintball was being played in Singapore, the PBAS implemented the Basic Tournament Orientation (BTO) course for beginners to learn more about competitive paintball. The BTO was designed to allow beginner players to play without a center dividing line which was then a restriction under the Singapore Police Force. This regulation was abolished in late 2009 under the recommendations provided by EK Paintball which operates Red Dynasty Paintball Park and the support of PBAS to the Pro Enterprise Panel (PEP), a body set up by the Singapore government to facilitate unnecessary “red tapes” for businesses in Singapore. Alongside the BTO, the Basic Marshal Orientation (BMO) was also devised to promote and develop paintball refereeing in Singapore. A PBAS website was (www.singaporepaintball.org) also set up to allow the public to learn more about the history of Singapore paintball and the safety aspects of the game. On April 2010, the first non-elected group of committee which founded the PBAS stepped down from their roles and handed over to an interim committee to honour the association’s mission and goals of promoting and developing Singapore paintball. Due to several governance factors such as the declaration of annual returns and changing of members’ names, the handover process was delayed and was known to be officially handed over in July 2010. Actually a year since the handing over, a PBAS forum (www.singaporepaintball.org/forum) was established to gather likeminded people to discuss paintball. In March 2011, a meeting with the SSC was established and scopes of new directions were presented to the SSC by the interim committee. It was reported that the meeting was fruitful with immediate goals such as passing a newly edited PBAS constitution to be further approved by the Registry of Society. The calling for the formation of clubs and associations to support the PBAS structure were also discussed. In April 2011, an open discussion was convened by the PBAS to discuss further development. During the meeting, the newly drafted constitution was passed by the interim committee. Topics pertaining to the development of Singapore paintball were also discussed with modest representation from the local teams and representatives from the industry who were keen to find out more about Singapore’s paintball future. New faces were present during the meeting which signal good movement for changes. Discussions revolved around membership recruiting, formation of clubs and associations, coaching and refereeing, local event support and scenario paintball. The meeting ended with little conclusion on plans to change or modify existing paintball restrictions and developmental of the sport in years to come. While it may seem like a new wave of revolution is ready to take charge and change the way paintball is being played in Singapore and to create awareness for the game, actions remained unfold. Perhaps only time will tell if this committee will bring about changes to Singapore paintball.
In the midst of this growth is the rise of businesses and interest which seek opportunities in this growing industry in Singapore. Bunkerz Clothing (www.bunkerz.com.sg) a local set up which focuses on transforming paintball from a sport into a lifestyle product is taking shape and looked ever promising and set to launch their products in October. Paintballers World (www.paintballersworld.com), Singapore’s first paintball proshop launched its online store becoming Asia’s first online web store. Paintballersbuyme (www.paintballersbuyme.com) a local online entity seize the opportunity by providing another source of online retail service. Tour companies are starting to offer short day paintball trip to Malaysia with a scrumptious seafood dinner to end a day of fun. Evidently, more local teams are also taking on roles to organize paintball games and doing their part to create paintball awareness in Malaysia for Singaporeans. A group of Milsim paintball enthusiasts from Singapore even took on the role to organize a full scale milsim scenario game known as Project Milsim (www.facebook.com/groups/milsim) with a twist of difference from the usual shooting game with gaining popularity amongst the scenario paintball community in Singapore and in Malaysia. However, the real question remains: “Are we there yet?”
The developments of paintball as a sport in Singapore remain with many uncertainties and have not seen any significant or major progress in the last one year. This is apparent from the number of new paintball teams that are being formed in Singapore. There are many factors attributing to this dawdling growth such as cost of participation, opportunities of awareness, lack of interest, etc, the main reason behind this sluggish growth is the non-unified efforts to promote the sport in the way a new sports should be developed. Paintball is still and widely regarded as a recreational game by in Singapore, many people are unaware or have little knowledge about the competitive side of the sport. Numerous efforts to reach out to government organizations and schools remain status quo. Few were impressed with the growth and potential of the sport and often regard the sport as an expensive and meaningless shooting game. These misconceptions about the sport are often glorified by the same people who love the sport and affirm by their words to promote the game in Singapore. The popularity of Singapore mainstream sports such as soccer, table tennis and sailing often outweighs the attention that is much needed for new sports to grow and to develop in Singapore. The non-unification or existence of an international paintball governing body did not help in this “paper world” where support and sanction by a higher body or organization is deemed necessary for any proposal to the governing authorities. The fact remains that if nobody is stepping out to improve the current restriction and misconception, paintball could remain stagnant in years to come. Unlike most sports, paintball has only about 30 years of history when it was first played as a “survival game”. Tournament paintball using inflatables as obstacles was barely played a decade ago. With different governing laws in different countries, paintball can be developed in many different ways with different firearms restrictions. While millions of people from across the world has tried and played paintball at least once during a birthday party, a stag party, a company organized event or gathering amongst friends to allow individual possession of paintball markers seem too much to ask for with the local authorities. If marker possession is illegal in Singapore, how can this regulation be changed or reviewed so that the sport is not hinder by restrictions that are mean for the “real” firearms? This question continue to remain a mystery in the last few years even though it has been pondered by many but never really got down to the end of the road where changes are made or reviewed. The realistic truth is that this regulation might never change given the current status and rate of sports development in Singapore.
With these regulations that restrict individual possession of a paintball marker (gun), many local teams are pursuing their paintball interest out of Singapore by training and competing regularly in Malaysia. This does not come as a surprise as paintball markers are easily accessible in Malaysia with many paintball pro shops sprouting across the country making it convenient for anyone to pick up the sport. Hobbyist can visit a paintball proshop and purchase a paintball marker depending on his level of interest (scenario or speedball). Many fail to take note that while individual possession of paintball markers are considered as illegal in Malaysia, the authorities seem to comprehend the “Bigger Picture” behind the sport where community building and cohesion amongst the paintball community cannot be easily duplicated with mainstream sports. Paintball events in Malaysia are often very well supported by their local governing bodies and even the Royal Family! If only things were that simple in Singapore!
There is no refutation that strict regulations are important to regulate anything new and especially so in Singapore where any action must be justified with a purpose. However, the authorities and the sport council have failed to put their attention on the evolvement of the sport and adopting this sport with an open mind. By open mind, we refer to the general acceptance of the paintball as a mainstream sport. Surely with general misconceptions about paintball being a dangerous sport and the constant association with words such as “painful” and “bruises” does take a toll on anyone who wants to have a go at the game. Paintball as per any other sports in the world does have an element of risk during participation. Feeling painful and seeing bruises are just part and parcel of the sport. Being a non-contact sport, paintball does have a huge advantage over physical contact sports such as boxing, taekwondo and wrestling where cases of injuries amongst athletes are comparatively higher. While paintball might not qualify as a sport with elite status such as sailing, bowling, soccer where millions of funding are allocated to ensure sporting success, paintball as a teambuilding sport can exist in the area of mass participation where people can participate regardless of different ages, gender, religion, language and culture can co-exist and enjoy the sport in a common ground. Till today, paintball remains to be one of the very few sports where people of different skill sets can get together to compete and have fun. A family of 3 generations can enjoy a day of paintball together and foster relationship much to what the sports council are looking for. Paintball at its current state is unable to produce a world champion for the country but it does play a role in getting a community together. Peculiarly unique to the sport of paintball is the camaraderie and friendship out of the sport that you cannot duplicate in any other sports. As it is, recreational paintball still remain as a popular teambuilding game for corporate organizations looking for a little bit of fun out of their office.
Despite the fact that several local paintball teams are beginning to make a mark in international paintball events, little has been done to ensure sustainability of the game in Singapore. Limited playing fields and strict possession laws continue to be a stumbling block for this sport to grow in Singapore. Presently, majority of awareness and educational initiatives are spearheaded by the Singapore Paintball Series, a paintball event company that has been a pillar of support in the development of the sport in Singapore. Initiatives such as refereeing and coaching certification are initiated to cater to the development of the sport amongst enthusiasts. The company’s continuous effort in creating diversity for the sport amongst youth participants was complimented with free coaching lessons to support the formation of paintball as a CCA in tertiary institutions. One such institution which took on this opportunity to introduce new sports into its long list of school activities is Singapore Polytechnic where its students won accolades for their recent performances in an overseas tournament. However, not all efforts are rewarded with success stories as many cited the lack of funding, non-recognition as a National Sports Association (NSA) sport and no participation opportunity as reasons to reject applications. The same reasons have since surfaced when new CCA applications are submitted yearly by students (mostly year 1 students) who are introduced to the sport. The chicken or the egg causality dilemma? You decide...
Similar to the Formula 1 Grand Prix, the Singapore Paintball Series is a commercial sport event which leverage on the support of sponsorship and participation. A very big part of the league’s success is attributed to the ongoing development to encourage and introduce new paintball players into the sport with progressive development of skill sets. As a commercial company promoting a new sport in Singapore, the Singapore Paintball Series with its stakeholders such as athletes, paintball field operators, paintball pro shops, clubs and associations need to understand the commercial viability of these developments. Being commercially viable, companies involving in these developments will have a stake to play in order to witness the success of them taking the risks to grow the sport. With a trend of paintball enthusiasts bringing their presence overseas, it will be soon before local development become stagnant due to the lessen participation.
In a city with limited natural resources, land spaces in Singapore are scarce and highly valuable. The usage of state land under the land development blueprint is well envisioned with high commercial returns on property value. As a developed country with respectable Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and inflation growth, the economy of Singapore continues to remain strong as compared to many regional countries. Where paintball is concerned, the cost of participating regularly in this newly formed sport will unsurprisingly be higher as compared to playing the same sport in regional countries. Business operators with existing overheads and high rental cost will need to maintain a good balance between the developments of the sport versus the high cost of running organizing a tournament in Singapore. With proper governance and support from the governing authorities, more land spaces can be identified and be utilised to cater to the growing need of developing paintball as a sport in Singapore where rental are marginal to support the growth of the sport. But is this even possible?
Vision 2030, an initiative by the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports encourages people from all sectors to provide their feedback and suggestions on how sports can be further developed for the future. This platform is open for anyone and everyone to suggest their views about Sporting Singapore. Many potential sports which often went unnoticed under the “Elite” status now have an opportunity to voice their opinion about how their respective sport can be developed and the obstacles they faced when promoting their favourite sport. Paintball sport is definitely one of the many sports which will be extensively mentioned in this movement and very well supported by the local paintball community. Surely, we can remind one another and highlight our grievances about our current horrific state of participation and the difficulties that we faced without the adequate infrastructure and playing equipment. But if we further examine this and walk another step to dwell on the possible recommendations that are much needed to improve the sport, wouldn’t we be asking ourselves what do we really need to make these changes and provide solutions for review instead of highlighting the obvious? Questions such as: “What do we really want?”, “What do we need from the governing agencies to help us promote this sport in Singapore?”, “What do we really need in order for us to compete like how it is done everywhere in the world?” What we want is to suggest recommendations for the current state of paintball sports in Singapore and move towards executing these suggestions. Annoyance and frustrations about the liberalism of the sport were voiced more than 12 years ago when the paintball game was first introduced. These are nothing new to local paintball enthusiasts. The question remains... what do we really want?
Many can mourn about cost, infrastructure and regulation for the longest time but do nothing... or they can start collating grievances into action and work around irregularities by recommending changes to authorizing agencies. If liberalisation in paintball ownership in Singapore can be approved overnight, if government state land available for paintball, if paintball is recognized as a mainstream sport in Singapore, if we are able to lower the age of participation, the question remains, are we ready to effect these changes? Do we have a common voice to bring us all together? A party which is free from biasness and the ability to envision the growth of paintball in Singapore perhaps... a body to unify all paintball operators in Singapore and to path the growth for Singapore paintball? If only things were that easy.
There is no quick solution to this problem but progressive steps can be taken to resolve this chicken and egg story.
Build a Vision: Set a vision for paintball to grow in Singapore. The outlook for paintball at this stage has lots of potential for growth. Ask yourself, what do you hope to see for Singapore paintball in years to come? Do you hope to see a regular community participating in the sport? Do you hope to see the relief of marker ownership restriction in Singapore? Do you hope to see several divisional categories of competition? Devise a blue print for the sport and work towards progressive implementation.
Change in Perspective: For many years since intervention, paintball has been associated with words such as “dangerous”, “painful”, “bruises”, etc, while these words are factual to some extent, many other words such as “fun”, “stimulating” and “challenging” can be used to describe the sport. When people are educated and aware about the positive aspects of paintball, mindset and perspectives will changed with more becoming less fearful of the sport. When more people play the game, this sport will naturally be more receptive, economies of scale can then be fulfilled with a larger playing population thus creating opportunities for business potential. Only with an open mind that does not withhold to beliefs and assumptions then are we able to channel implementation for changes.
Progressive Learning: Providing a competitive platform for enthusiasts to learn and to compete. Introduce a variety of skill sets for enthusiasts to improve in their game thus maintaining the motivation to learn, to compete and to win. Avenue of coaching and guidance must be available for players to learn about competitive paintball. Tournaments must be organized to validate skills that have been learnt so as to accomplish sense of achievement from competing. Clinics and workshops will provide a bridge for introduction to rookies to learn and have some fun in a non-competitive environment.
Partnership and Collaboration: Establish a healthy network for collaboration with experience bodies through knowledge sharing and creation of new ideas. Institute shared vision and goals by way of observation from reputable associations. Formulate mutual benefits and support through representation, publicity and marketing. Unification of paintball bodies and association of industries, businesses and agencies can then be attained.
So instead of waiting for miracles to happen overnight and wait for perception to change, Singapore paintball can both take baby steps with hopes of a makeover and embrace the current limitation or we can procrastinate, grumble and grieve about our short comings.
The writer, Ben Seow is from Singapore and an ardent fan of competitive paintball. Ben is a founding member of Singapore’s first competitive paintball team, Red Sevens which was established in 2006. From 2007 to 2009, Ben was an office bearer of the Paintball Association (Singapore). During his stint with PBAS, Ben established the Singapore Paintball Novice Series (SPNS) which is Singapore’s first competitive paintball tournament. The SPNS is now renamed as the Singapore Paintball Series (SPS) which Ben is the currently appointed as the SPS Tournament Promoter.