Financing Vincentian sport

For the past several decades the issue of the financing of sport in St Vincent and the Grenadines has been a burden on those involved in the respective sports associations functioning in this country.
There is a national sports policy that speaks to the broader national sport development process. This policy, initially prepared by the National Olympic Committee (NOC), which facilitated a national consultation before completing the final draft for submission to Cabinet, has undergone some reviews. The most recent review took place in 2005 and is captured in captured in Cabinet Memo 421/05.
National Sport Policy on Finance
Section 3 of the National Sport Policy of this country addresses the matter of financing sport. This week we examine the details of the segment and comment on where we are in terms of their implementation and effectiveness.
         3.1 The finance of sports development in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines shall take a tripartite approach: Government, Private Sector and National Sports Associations.
While this sounds very good the fact is that apart from the consultation held back in 1996 for the creation of the national sports policy there has never been any forum at which the three components were brought together to determine who the arrangement for financing of sports would work.
In the absence of such a forum nothing has ever really been put in place.
The private sector, for example, determines in its own deliberate judgement if and when it would provide assistance for the development of sport in the country and to which organisation.
National sports associations are often left to go around, more like beggars, for whatever assistance they can garner from both the government and the private sector.
Happily, some national sports associations get some assistance from their respective international federations, which they use to facilitate their programmes.
The National Olympic Committee has, for the past several years, been the single largest contributor to the broader national sports development process in all areas except infrastructure.
          3.2 Government shall make an appropriate annual provision to the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports and the National Sports Council for the sport development process. The National Lotteries Authority shall be one of the primary sources of local funding for National Sports Associations. However, such funds shall be channeled through the National Sports Council and the National Sports Foundation.
          This part of the National Sports Policy is a real challenge.
For the past few years the government has not made any provision in the annual budget for the annual Inter Secondary Schools Athletics Championships, the single largest sporting event for schools at the local level and which requires in excess of $100,000.00.
Given the state of the Vincentian economy over the past four years the government has been unable to make appropriate provisions for sport financing in the annual budget. This is further evidenced by the few paragraphs that sport attracts in the annual budget presentation by the Minister of Finance. The money simply is not there.
Additionally, when the government does step in with financing there is a clear bias in favour of Cricket, for some as yet unexplained reason.
The government’s financial contribution to the ‘goat cook’ matches for the Cricket World Cup 2007 was certainly ill-advised and there are as yet no evident benefits that have been derived by this country. There is no legacy. Sion Hill has been out of commission unavailable for use by anyone for the past three years.
The government’s additional expenditure on Arnos Vale for the three One Day Internationals earlier this year remains something of a mystery since at best it reflects their own inability to adequately monitor and evaluate the expenses undertaken at the same facility just a few years earlier for the Cricket World Cup.
No sport other than Cricket has had the ears of government and access to government coffers over the years and this for a sport that has long since lost its place as the nation’s most popular sport in the nation.
Indeed it was only earlier this year that an agreement was reached with the government to have the National Lotteries Authority (NLA) sponsor the annual Championships for a period of four years in the first instance.
In respect of the annual funding for national sports associations, the process is simply untenable. When associations apply to the National Sports Council, the latter is supposed to evaluate the requests and forward its approval to the National Lotteries Authority. This is often done and the Council sends a copy of its submission to the respective associations.
Unfortunately, when the associations call on the Council for an indication of the status of its application for funding they are told that they must check with the NLA. The Council plays no further part in the process. This is ridiculous.
What was the purpose of having the Council involved in the first place if it cannot defend its approval and access the funds for and on behalf of the associations?
National Sports Associations are therefore left to seek audiences with the NLA in order to get an indication as to whether the NSC-approved request has been approved. On many occasions they are told that their requests have been denied or that they have been allocated a paltry sum that can hardly fit the bill in terms of the purpose for which the application was made in the first place. The result is frustration.
The roles of the NSC and the NLA are therefore unclear and in need of extensive review. Associations cannot feel comfortable with what currently obtains.
The promotion of the NLA continues to state that its mandate is to support sport and culture. If that is indeed the case then the organisation should have no problems in telling the nation its contribution to sport on an annual basis.
      3.3. Sporting goods imported by and/or donated to National Sports Associations from outside Saint Vincent and the Grenadines for the expressed purpose of the developing the respective disciplines shall be eligible for duties exemption.
      This is the one area of the National Sports Policy that has been implemented, for the most part. The process involves associations making the request for duty free concession to the Council, which then submits its approval to the Ministry of Finance and copied to the respective national sports associations.
National sporting bodies have however received mixed signals. In some instances associations have been made to pay duties despite providing the evidence that the materials have been offered free of charge by their respective International Federations. In such cases the ridiculous response of the local authorities may well mean that it is better to have the materials returned to the international federations or left in Customs to rot than to pay what is being asked, locally.
      3.4 The Private Sector shall be encouraged to contribute financially and otherwise to the development of Physical Education, Sports and Recreation in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Contributors shall be eligible for tax concessions deemed appropriate by Government and encompassed in laws.
One is not sure how this has been done, if at all. Certainly this has not been sufficiently implemented to be able to point to those private sector organisations that have even bothered to file for such concessions following their contributions to sporting organisations.
There is an urgent need for the government to facilitate a meeting of the three groupings – government, private sector and national sports associations – to determine what is the best way for this aspect of the policy to be implemented.
In what many local businesses see as an unfavourable economic climate and where several businesses are considering layoffs and closure this may well be a most difficult thing to achieve.
      3.5 National Sports Associations shall endeavour to raise such funds as are possible by their own endeavours.
St Vincent and the Grenadines has been in the grips of a major economic drought for the past four years in particular. Sport has been amongst the least of the apostles, as it were, in terms of accessing government attention, far less government’s financing.
There was a time when it was relatively easy for national sports associations to raise funds. Barbecues were the norm but there were several other ways in which funds were raised.
Today, given the state of the economy, individual householders have begun to earn a living from barbecues such that at almost every corner one can find tow or three persons plying this trade as their means of income generation.
Raffles are no longer viable for associations.
The foregoing explains the heavy reliance on accessing funds from the National Olympic Committee whose funds are specific to different programmes on offer from Olympic Solidarity.
Things are very hard all around St Vincent and the Grenadines and national sports associations are finding it increasingly difficult to raise revenue to conduct their normal business, far less to get assistance for overseas travel or for sponsorship of local events.
The government needs to resist the temptation to use sport as a political tool. This strategy, while beneficial to political parties has done nothing for the development of sport in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
There has to be review of the National Sports Policy if we are to go forward. There is a sense of urgency in this regard.