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Parents, firms irate over closure of coaching academy

SINGAPORE — The abrupt wind-up of sports coaching centre The Guardian Academy, announced in an email to parents on Monday, has left a trail of creditors and irate parents demanding fee refunds.

SINGAPORE — The abrupt wind-up of sports coaching centre The Guardian Academy, announced in an email to parents on Monday, has left a trail of creditors and irate parents demanding fee refunds.

At least six firms working with the academy — which mentors children and youth from four to 18 years old — to provide various sporting activities, such as golf, wushu and badminton, told TODAY they are owed between S$200 and more than S$2,000.

Parents typically paid the academy, which was co-founded by former national football player R Sasikumar, a subscription fee of S$4,200. Upon enrolment, a child attended trial sessions for up to five different sports before he or she decided on a particular sport to pursue. On top of the subscription fee, parents paid the academy lesson fees, at a discounted rate. The academy would in turn pay the sports firms for providing the lessons.

Former national shuttler Ronald Susilo, who runs his own badminton academy, said he is owed some S$2,000 for fees incurred between September and December last year for six students referred from the academy. “The amount is not big but what I felt was disappointing was that they promised me they would settle payments in two sessions, and to give them more time. They said they were restructuring the organisation, and now suddenly this happened,” he said.

Mr Susilo, who has reported the matter to the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE), hopes he can have his money back or at least get an explanation. “They can’t just suddenly close down this way; it isn’t right,” he said.

Another firm left in the lurch is softball academy Momentum Sports. Its founder Suzanne Tan said the firm has been owed S$1,340 since June last year. Ms Tan said she has been chasing the academy for payments but to no avail.

CASH-FLOW PROBLEMS

In response to TODAY’s queries, a reply signed off by “The Management” explained that they had closed the academy — which opened in May 2012 and had 173 members — because it “couldn’t manage its cash flow due to the overwhelming request for refunds by members”.

Asked how it would address the refund requests from parents, the academy said: “There’s an internal process that is going on at the moment and the management will announce our next steps shortly.”

It acknowledged that it could have managed the communication process with parents better. “We apologise for the manner (in which we communicated) which might (have) caused the parents to react the way they did,” it said.

TODAY understands the academy’s partners began seeking payments directly from parents since late last year, after it failed to pay them on time. This prompted some parents to withdraw their children from the academy and to request refunds.

Meanwhile, more parents have come forward, with CASE saying there were at least 40 complaints filed with them as of 2pm yesterday. Five parents who spoke to TODAY said they have made police reports. One of them, homemaker Monica Lau, 44, said she had paid the subscription fee via a 36-month instalment plan to enrol her nine-year-old son Manuel in the academy. “Frankly, even if I don’t get my money back, they should not get away with this,” she said.

The police confirmed that reports had been lodged. “The complainants have been advised to seek their own civil recourse,” a spokesperson said.

CASE said consumers can file their complaints with the Small Claims Tribunals and that it will render assistance to help consumers submit their claims to the official receiver or liquidator. A search on the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority website’s showed that the academy has not been deregistered. It has three directors and has a paid-up capital of S$100,000.

When contacted, Mr Sasikumar reiterated that the academy is “taking a proactive approach” to resolve the matter. “I’ve already made enough statements to the media ... I’ve also been advised by my legal adviser not to keep talking to the media because we are trying to solve the issue,” he said. “In due course, you will get your answers.”

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