Several years ago some International Federations (IF) took the bold step to insist that their affiliates around the world, national sports associations, should be comprised of only clubs. They found that in several instances their affiliates were floundering and inconsistent in terms of their capacity to sustain themselves. This latter problem meant that the IF suffered at the local and continental levels and therefore ran the risk of losing status at the international level.
Here in St Vincent and the Grenadines the governing bodies for Athletics, Football, Basketball and Netball opted to engage themselves in the challenging matter of calling on affiliates to establish themselves into clubs as opposed to the far more common, teams.
A meeting was convened at the then headquarters of the Football Federation at Beachmont and the process began.
Unfortunately the process did not garner momentum following that initial meeting and the situation returned to the shoulders of the respective national associations with mixed results.
On Saturday last, 11 September 2010, the St Vincent and the Grenadines Football Federation, under tremendous pressure from FIFA over the past several years to ensure that its membership is composed of clubs, began a series of seminars intended to facilitate the transformation.
Unfortunately several of the clubs did not attend. Those that did attend however benefitted from an understanding of some of the challenges they can expect to encounter. They were exposed as well to the immense benefits to be derived from the establishment of clubs.
Evadney George-Joseph addressed the participants on Leadership and the Role of the Executive; Bentley Browne dealt with Strategic Planning; Cerlain Russell focused on The Management of Club Finance; and, Keith Joseph, dealt with The Socio Psychological Effects of Club Management.
At the present time St Vincent and the Grenadines is inundated with teams. These are really loosely organised groupings of individuals who are interested in playing a particular sport. They are not in any way formalised. They do not have constitutions, lack any form of administrative structure and cease to function once the particular competition has concluded.
Teams are not really sustainable and the membership possesses no loyalty to the organisation.
That some teams have survived many years is perhaps due to a very strong leader r the fact that the players all come from the same community and are generally in each other’s company on a regular basis.
Teams by definition weaken national sports associations. They cannot in principle be considered affiliates since they are not formal. They may pay fees that are required to participate in a competition and may even see themselves as full members of the association. The reality is much different.
Teams are almost always on the hustle. In the absence of any Executive they assign responsibilities to one another in order to meet the requirements of their participation. Thus, someone would undertake to get letters done. Another individual may take on the challenge of going to potential sponsors for assistance with the acquisition of uniforms for the competition.
The absence of an Executive and a structure also means that there is very little record-keeping. Documents may at best be stored by whoever is deemed the leader until such time as he/she flies the coup and another individual undertakes to carry the burden.
There being no genuine fundraising within the unit the players have to dip into their pockets to make up for any financial shortfall.
Businesses are not keen on assisting teams. They do not have confidence in them given the absence of formal administrative structures. Thus teams often fail to complete a competition as the financial demands increase the burden on the individual members.
Teams do not have the capacity to apply sanctions on the members. Since the organisation is not formalised any individual who finds him/herself facing possible disciplinary action readily leaves and moves on to another team.
Any national association that is composed solely of teams rather than clubs are prone to experiencing no end of difficulty in its administration.
The fact that many associations have survived with teams as opposed to clubs means that they have not been able to grow as they should have. They would have been far more successful on and off the field of play had they insisted earlier on the establishment of clubs and clubs-only membership.
A club is a social organization in so far as it is a gathering of people of like mind. They share a common interest – the particular sport in which they are involved. This reality makes for the evolution of a good working relationship.
Clubs require key people. It is important that at the very beginning a club seeks out people of influence in the community/society. They must seek our people who are capable of engendering discipline among the membership.
It is also very important that clubs involve people who can communicate effectively such that everyone garners a thorough understand of what is being said in the organisation’s interest.
Clubs require people who get along well with others. This is particularly important since a club brings people together and harmony facilitates enhanced performance from all involved.
Clubs require people with good contacts. This allows the organization to be able to get things done quickly.
While there is nothing wrong with a group of interested individuals who desire to practise a sport coming together to establish some sort of organisation it is always in their best interest to be guided by experience. This why they should strive to seek out key people. Players cannot play and administer the organisation that they represent. While this has been done in the past it is never a good practice and should be discouraged. That is not to say that athletes should not be involved in the decision-making process. What is important is that they do not engage themselves in the day to day administration of the organisation since they would not be able to function as a competitor.
The membership of a club must involve those who wish to practise sport – athletes. From the very beginning the interested persons would need to determine at what levels they would wish to participate in the sport. In any event, even if the members want to play in senior competitions it is in their interest to ensure that there is sustainability and that means having a feeder system allowing younger players to come into the organisation and grow in it, being readied to replace the aging ones.
Thus clubs often seek to provide athletes with a career path. They involve athletes at different age levels all honing their skills and improving their knowledge of the sport.
The average club would therefore have members who range from kids through to veterans.
The second level of membership would be the technical personnel. A club needs coaches; people who are qualified and competent to impart the skills of the sport to all levels of participants.
Clubs also need to ensure that their coaches access programmes that allow for their continuing education in the sport.
There is also a need for officials who apply the rules of the sport. These technical officials, as they are called, must also be knowledgeable and competent.
Technical officials must be people who are interested in the sport, who can make sound judgment, fearless in their application of the rules and are willing to be trained to ever higher levels of competence.
Clubs also need administrators. They require people to carry out the day to day operations of the organisation, ensuring that correspondences are appropriately handled and in a timely manner; planning is undertaken and the traditional responsibilities of the leadership of an organisation are professionally managed.
Administrators must be people with leadership skills, administrative competence and good communication skills.
Additional members should be drawn from the parents of athletes, friends of athletes and officials, past athletes as well as sports enthusiasts who want to be part of the organization.
Clubs must be guided by a constitution that is well crafted and responsive to the requirements of the national association. This should establish clearly the vision, mission and objectives of the organization.
Programmes of clubs must be in sync at once with their own developmental needs as well as the mandates of their respective national associations. In pursuit of this they should establish such sub committees as deemed necessary.
Meetings must be held frequently in order to keep the membership abreast of developments. Minutes must be kept and so too statistics on the performances of the athletes/teams.
In all things clubs must be accountable to their membership and should facilitate comprehensive reports on activities especially those for which they have procured sponsorship.
Clubs should ensure that there is ongoing monitoring and evaluation of their work so that adjustments could be made at appropriate times to facilitate progress. This is critical to their planning.
The work has begun and the time has come for the respective associations to come to the realisation that clubs do not only benefit one sport. All sports currently practised in St Vincent and the Grenadines stand to benefit from the formation of clubs.
The current initiative undertaken by Football could easily be expanded to incorporate all of those other sports practised here.
It may well be that we could see a return to multisport clubs across the country as well as the emergence of community-based clubs dominating the membership of the respective national associations.