Over the past several years we have been hammering away at the fact that St Vincent and the Grenadines remains well behind the vast majority of its Caribbean neighbours in terms of sporting infrastructure. The argument being made on each occasion is that without proper sport infrastructure it is certainly not possible to help Vincentian athletes even approximate their capacities in respect of sporting achievements.
There is every reason to believe, however, that we can do better with the pooling of available resources and, if it is ever possible, to see sport as non-political.
Let us examine some of the options that are available to us in respect of establishing better facilities of football and athletics.
FIFA’s Goal Projects
The international governing body for the sport of football, FIFA, has, for several years now, created what is referred to as its Goal Project. This is an initiative that allows national football associations to apply for and procure funding for projects that are tailored to the institution’s particular needs in the country in which it is located and operates.
Here in St Vincent and the Grenadines the Goal Projects have seen the development of the football hostel at Brighton and the attendant playing field and more recently, the acquisition of the Football House in Kingstown, opposite the Kingstown Anglican Church.
The federation also boasts a bus and a utility vehicle for use in its development programmes.
The hostel can in fact be used by several national sports associations in the country to host training camps of one sort or another. This facility is not used as often as it could be by the different sports associations.
It is also very clear that while the Brighton field has been available it is very limited in terms of what the federation can do with it. Nonetheless it exists and can be of benefit to football as well as other sporting organisations requiring such a facility.
The distance pf the Bridgton facilities from population clusters may well be considered a disincentive for daily training, especially of national teams prior to final selection. But the same feature may well serve the selected squad in good stead being away from the numerous distractions of the more popular venues.
It should however be noted that the Brighton field is not ideal for the final preparation of a national team in readiness for regional and international competition.
There is also much to be said for football being in possession of its own headquarters. Given the increased funding available to the organisation from FIFA and the latter’s interest in the development of the sport in all parts of the world where members operate, it is particularly important that the organisation has its own headquarters to optimise professional administration and so better service the members at the national level while maintaining good relations with the FIFA family across the world.
Members know that there is an office that is staffed and ready to respond to their needs, take on board their valuable suggestions and strengthen the delivery of requisite services.
For every national sport association transportation is a serious component of tits development work.
The decision of the football federation to acquire its own bus and utility vehicle means that teams in training no longer have to await public transportation and arrive at training at times contingent upon traffic conditions.
All of the equipment needed for training and preparing facilities for competitions can be taken to and from venues with relative ease and in appropriate time to guarantee success.
Football therefore, has ensured that it has accessed the available funding to acquire much of what is required to develop the sport and its membership over time. There is much more that can be accessed in the future.
The St Vincent and the Grenadines Olympic Committee (SVGOC) has been in existence since 1982 but only acquired membership of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 1987 and thereafter, membership of the Pan American Sports Organisation (PASO) and the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF).
Having been provided with an annual administration grant from the IOC subsequent to gaining membership, the organisation has been able to rent an office and hire an administrative secretary and an office attendant.
Because the SVGOC is an umbrella sporting organisation it was important that it has an office to service the member national sports associations. This has been the case since 1989.
For many years the offices of the SVGOC have served affiliates by providing administrative support and in some instances, technical support.
Many affiliates have used the services of the Office to coordinate their database development as well as facilitate visa and team travel arrangements.
Computer access at the offices have been used by affiliates to do much of their work and scanning, photocopying and printing services have been the order to the day in this regard.
Even with the limited rental space the SVGOC was able to develop a small library and collect and store archival materials from several Games and activities attended by its leadership. This latter aspect of the office has allowed the organisation to mount Olympic Exhibitions on different occasions around the country.
The office has also become a hub for the production of several booklets prepared by the National Olympic Academy and which have been distributed around St Vincent and the Grenadines. Among these are a series on national sporting icons.
In the latter part of 2016 the Pan American Sports Organisation (PASO) made funding available to assist its members that did not yet have their own home, to do so. With a grant of $200,000 USD, PASO thought it was contributing to the development of Olympic Committee headquarters amongst its 41 members.
The SVGOC added the rest of the money to procure its own home, located at Villa, for just over $700,000 EC, in August of this year. At present the facility is being prepared for occupancy in the short term even as the organisation seeks to consider its option regarding possible expansion in the near future to accommodate a conference room and a national Olympic museum and archives as well as additional offices.
It should be noted that there are still several National Olympic Committees (NOC) in the Caribbean that are yet to procure their own home.
It is hoped that once the project is fully completed the Olympic House would be a significant institution in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Some time ago the IOC entered into an agreement with the Daimler Group of Germany. This led to NOCs being able to apply for a minivan for their operations. Based on the assessment of the case made by the SVGOC the IOC approved the grant of a minivan to St Vincent and the Grenadines.
The initial agreement was for a Mercedes minivan to be provided from the nearest available manufacturer. Unfortunately, the experiences of the NOCs of Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados with the minivans delivered to them led the IOC to agree the provision of funds to NOCs instead of a specific vehicle.
The SVGOC received a grant of $35,000US which was eventually used to procure a minivan. This vehicle is now available for the organisation’s protocol needs as well as provide requested services of its affiliates.
Football and the SVGOC have now joined Squash, Tennis, Swimming and Netball with having their own headquarters.
Today, efforts are being made to facilitate increased collaboration amongst national sports associations to engage their respective international and continental organisations to assist with the provision of a national stadium that would serve football, athletics and rugby, and an indoor sports complex that would serve basketball, netball, volleyball, table tennis, boxing, taekwondo and karate.
Cooperation is needed amongst the national sports association if we are to make headway in achieving the kind of progress that would yield success for our youths in regional and international sport.