Taiwan plans to raise at least NT$1 billion (HK$256 million) over the next five years in a bid to stop star athletes from "defecting" to the mainland.
The plan was announced after reports said newly crowned Wimbledon women's doubles champion Hsieh Su-wei was planning to give up her Taiwanese citizenship to represent the mainland, where she would receive more lucrative sponsorship.
Hsieh and mainland partner Peng Shuai won the title last Saturday, making Hsieh the first Taiwanese to hold a grand slam crown.
"Given the enthusiastic support from local entrepreneurs, there shouldn't be a problem [raising the money]," Wang Jin-pyne, Speaker of Taiwan's legislature, said yesterday.
Wang had dinner with 30 business leaders on Monday to discuss how best to develop sports on the island and hold on to star athletes.
The dinner was co-hosted by Education Minister Chiang Wei-ning, who proposed setting up the NT$1 billion fund. Wang said four business leaders had already pledged NT$200 million towards the fund.
On Monday, Hsieh's father, Hsieh Tze-lung, said his daughter was considering a move to the mainland in exchange for an annual sponsorship deal worth almost NT$50 million. Yesterday, he said she would stay in Taiwan if she could strike a deal for NT$40-50 million with sponsors on the island.
Hsu An-hsuan, chairman of the Taiwan Tobacco and Liquor Corp, yesterday announced his company would negotiate with Hsieh's father or agent for a sponsorship deal, although he would not reveal how much it would be worth.
The issue has once again drawn attention to the plight of top Taiwanese athletes, who receive little government support.
In 2011, Wu Chia-ching, a top professional pool player, gave up his Taiwanese citizenship to represent the mainland.