August 2nd, 2011
Money worries! No Money! These days the Ministry of Sport and the Sport Company (SportTT) are coming in for adverse comment and criticism either openly or by innuendo. Sports administrators are publicly pointing to the Ministry and or SportTT. The blame for every disappointment is dumped squarely in the lap of the honchos at Abercromby Street and Henry Street.
This column, on the other hand, has a different perspective and that is fingers should be pointed at local sports administrators for missing the strategic boat. The narrative surrounding sport is focused on the negative because of sports administrators and other interested individuals for whom the only priority is obtaining money. With labour unions having to accept five percent, how could National Sport Organisations (NSOs) and their stakeholders not suffer funding cuts? NSOs should have been alive to the developments taking place, money worries should not have come like the proverbial thief in the night.
A few years ago as money flowed like water the T&TOC leadership on many occasions cautioned NSOs that they should be prudent and act with fiscal discipline, common sense and responsibility. Words of reason were dismissed and scoffed at. During the heady times of plenty the emphasis shifted from volunteerism. No longer was it about sport at the service of the larger and greater good. Strategic and national sport policy coherence became a casualty as social and recreational sports suddenly became elite and amateur sport administrators changed overnight into high value professionals. An overreliance on government funding fosters dependency. NSOs are the ones to make the hard decisions not government. It is unrealistic and a dereliction of duty and leadership to demand and even expect that government and by extension the taxpayer to fund the complete wish list of any NSO. Not, at any rate, in times when babies are crying from hunger or drowning in cesspits.
Government funding is not an absolute or God given right; there are some government hand out obsessed NSOs who believe that they should receive all the funding that they require from the public purse. Their love and devotion to their sport is without question. However, NSOs cannot afford to be naïve or for that matter compliant and allow unrepresentative views and actions to be taken for the majority view. Small but vocal minorities can do untold damage when the majority display indifference. There is not enough money to go around and NSOs are entirely reliant on government funding. A recipe for disaster, if ever there was one. Solving it requires fresh ideas and thought leadership. Sport is vulnerable to the external problems in the political, social and socio-economic environment. Institutional and systemic barriers to sports development are substantial and participation in sport is not taken seriously. There are serious issues to be addressed.
Maybe if NSOs change their poor me narrative to one that is more edifying and constructive, then sport will be taken seriously and strategically promoted as a significant contributor to social development, economic growth and diversification. The general public and corporate T&T are sick and tired of the posturing, brinksmanship, bacchanal and confusion. Instead of running around shouting the sky is falling start talking about an integrated strategy to create a sporting culture that will grow and create a sustainable sport ecosystem and infrastructure that will see more Trinbagonians playing, enjoying and excelling in sports. Before going cap in hand begging and demanding more money provide information on participation levels; ideas and plans on how to make sports more accessible for the average Trinbagonian; suggestions on how to facilitate increased participation among all citizens in recreational and competitive sports and how to coordinate programmes that support athlete development and progress to high performance. Establish the local sport brand as trustworthy and credible, excellence driven and innovative. Dysfunctional, inept and incompetent is not a brand anyone would want to align with,sponsor, fund or invest in.