Reviewing our National Sports Policy – Part III
The national sports policy of St Vincent and the Grenadines must speak directly to the needs of the Vincentian sporting community or else it is useless.
All persons and institutions involved in sport in the state must endeavour to know, understand and constantly review the national sports policy at all times. In this way the policy would be at the service of the process of genuine national development.
Media & Promotion
In analyzing the national sports policy as currently in vogue one must recognise the important role that is given to the media in this country to aid in the sports development process.
Government and private media houses shall be encouraged to increase the publicity and exposure given to sporting activities to highlight the endeavours of sports persons and stimulate public support and participation.
One is certain that in St Vincent and the Grenadines the media have not always been supportive of sport. With the expansion of the media in the past few years the competition may well be credited with having cajoled the media to be more proactive in the level of exposure being given to sport.
While sportspeople across the state cannot be completely satisfied with the exposure being given at present it is certainly much more than hitherto and ought to be commended. This does not mean that we should not demand more from the media in this regard.
All media houses shall be encouraged to play an active role in promoting sports as a healthy lifestyle.
Over the years of the implementation of the national sports policy we cannot state with any measure of satisfaction that our media houses have played an active role in the promotion of healthy lifestyles in the state.
All media houses shall play their role in building positive attitudes to sports administrators, participants and sport in general.
Respect for the primary stakeholders in sport in St Vincent and the Grenadines remains an area of weakness. Respect is sadly lacking. While we may accept that there ought to be criticisms levelled at all categories amongst the stakeholders it seems necessary to state here that the media remain woefully deficient in the way it deals with sports administrators and other participants in sport.
National sporting bodies and affiliates shall undertake marketing and promotional activities aimed at increasing and sustaining spectator attendance at sporting activities.
There is little doubt that the national sporting associations in St Vincent and the Grenadines have been particularly weak in the area of marketing. The nation’s most popular sport, football, has not been able to capitalise on its popularity enough to garner and sustain anything even remotely resembling a sports marketing contract with any institution. At one time we had a uniform contract with an organisation, El Sportivo. No one has sought to explain when or how this contract was lost and what has been done to replace it.
Cricket which seems to enjoy some pride of place in St Vincent and the Grenadines has not been able to secure sustained sponsorship in spite of this. The loss of the ECGC sponsorship of the organisation’s One Day Tournament after a few years of support is one example.
Educational activities shall be developed to instruct the general public in the rules and skills of different sporting events; national sporting bodies and affiliates shall develop structured programmes to facilitate the systematic development of sports in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
Some time ago Clemroy ‘Bert’ Francois undertook a series of programmes relative to utilisation of the media to promote the rules of football. As an assistant referee, Francois used his experience to facilitate this activity. For some as yet unknown reason the programme stopped and the many youngsters wishing to and entering the sport have been robbed of the opportunity to become knowledgeable about the sport. This may well be one of the reasons why the sport has degenerated so much and violence has become commonplace at different competitions across the state.
Media houses shall be encouraged to pay due regard to the rights of the sporting bodies for their respective events.
The word, ‘rights’ has not been one that our media have paid much attention to over the years.
The local media often believe that there is so little done by way of their capacity to sell coverage of local events that they do not consider any association as a rights holder of any activity conducted here. The end result is that no association has been able to secure income for any rights they may have for the events that they host. Unfortunately this has also been extended to include the rights over events of a regional/international nature hosted in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
The experience of football’s hosting of the World Cup Preliminary match against Mexico some years ago remains fresh in our minds. One is not at all sure that the arrangements made worked in the best interest of the local football federation or of the entire football fraternity.Of course we have often been told that the approach undertaken by Concacaf to allow the organisation to garner all the benefits and share it amongst its membership is better than having each country seek to work things out on its own. This practice may well have some merit but there are many affiliates who would never learn what is involved in seeking to develop marketing plans and engaging in negotiations for sale of the rights under their ambit.
In retrospect therefore the media can hardly be said to be entirely negative in respect of what is expected from them under the national sports policy. Equally though, they can hardly be said to be overwhelmingly eager to meet the challenges contained therein.
Sporting organisations must share a fair amount of responsibility for failing to actively court the media in their respective efforts at developing their sport. Weak public relations have not served the best interests of our sporting organisations.
Representation & Recognition
The national sports policy also addresses the issue of paying due recognition to those who, through their involvement in sport, have impacted the national development process. It is this aspect of the policy that has therefore given impetus to the National Sports Council’s efforts at an Annual Awards programme which covers all aspects of sport.
Selection to represent Saint Vincent and the Grenadines in a competition, meeting or seminar constitutes an honour and must be treated as such.
In the absence of the very culture of sport which the national sports policy seeks to establish and entrench in Vincentian society many of our athletes, coaches and officials do not yet understand and appreciate what constitutes national pride. Many do not see beyond their noses and do not recognise the significance of representing one’s country. One has only to observe the way some athletes pay little respect to the national team uniforms once it is in their possession following competition or their continued failure, for the most part to see themselves as role models for others around them in society to appreciate their lack of understanding of this aspect of the policy.
National sporting bodies must do more to enlighten athletes, coaches and administrators on this important matter. The athletes are not the only ones at fault here.
Any person selected to represent Saint Vincent and the Grenadines as administrator, official and athlete in local, regional and international sporting competitions, meetings or seminars shall be deemed to be performing national duty. This shall be regarded as contributing to the promotion of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
Such a person shall receive leave of absence from his/her employer to participate, without loss of income.
It is unfortunate that as yet the government of St
Vincent and the Grenadines has failed to recognise sport enough to implement this aspect of the policy in full. Even government ministers have at times found great difficulty in approving time off for employees in the service to serve the country through sport. In fact, in the recent past one minister of government was apparently heard suggesting that if a particular player needed so much time off for football he should have sought a job elsewhere rather than in his ministry.
Such a representative shall be exempt from paying Airport and Ticket Taxes on the particular occasion.
The government has held fast to this aspect of the policy only in respect of the departure taxes at the airport. Ticket taxes have not been exempted. There are, in our region, several governments that have implemented the waiver of ticket taxes for their sports personnel on national duty. At the local level the government has never offered an explanation for not implementing this aspect of the policy and one would hope that something would be done sooner rather than later in this regard.
The media shall be encouraged to give appropriate coverage to personalities duly recognized in accordance with this National Sports Policy.
While the media have given coverage to the annual awards organised by the NSC they have nonetheless done nothing during any given year to keep the winners in the forefront of national consciousness.
Where such a person is unemployed his/her involvement in sport shall receive consideration in recruitment for jobs, admissions to institutions of higher learning and accessing scholarships provided they satisfy the minimum requirements.
Where such a person does not possess qualifications every effort shall be made by the private and public sector and National Sports Associations to find appropriate training and subsequent job opportunities.
Some athletes have been given scholarships and others have been given employment opportunities. However, the government has not been delivering on what can be considered a ‘level playing field’.
Appropriately designed awards shall be established by the National Sports Council commensurate with the significance of the performance of the particular sporting personality. Recognition extends from athletes to coaches, technical officials and administrators.
Among possible awards shall be accession to a National Sports Hall of Fame, having titles allocated, having streets and facilities named in their honour, inclusion in sports-tourism promotional packages and in advertisements of local business houses.
While the NSC must be commended for its hosting of the annual awards it must be stated that due consideration must be given to a review of the awards themselves. It is questionable whether what is offered to the winners can be considered appropriate in today’s context. The comparison can be made to the awards given to representatives at the Miss SVG contest viz a viz our sports personalities. It is literally a case of cheese and chalk.
A Fair Play Award shall form part of the Annual Awards Programme.
Despite this particular clause being in the policy since its inception absolutely no movement has been made regarding its implementation. This is unfortunate since it reflects a failure on the part of the NSC to peruse the document sufficiently enough to right this wrong. The conduct of sportspeople is important to the development of an wholesome attitude to sport by our children. Exemplary conduct is to be admired and encouraged at all times.
Appropriate incentives shall be introduced for deserving personalities over time and wherever feasible.
There remains an absence of a well-developed incentives scheme for our sportspeople. The initial grant of ambassadorial status to some athletes now seems nothing more than a political ploy.
This is evidenced by the failure of the same administration to add to the list of sports ambassadors since the inaugural installation in 2001.
No criteria were ever established beyond the governmental leadership’s narrow political myopia. Even the very concept of a sports ambassador has never been defined.
No one can explain, for example, why, given all that he has been able to achieve and his contribution to this country, Adonal Foyle has not been added to this list.
While politicians are always prone to engaging themselves with delusions of grandeur this must not be at the expense of our real heroes, our sports people, many of whose achievements have taken the name of St Vincent and the Grenadines to places where our politicians may never be known.