When St Vincent and the Grenadines got approval from the international federation that controls football, FIFA, to be a full member, it opened up immense opportunities regarding the developing of the sport in this country.
Armed with our new FIFA membership we immediately entered the qualifying competitions for the 1994 World Cup scheduled for the USA in the summer of 1994.
Interestingly, by the time we were about to start our initial World Cup campaign Basil ‘Bung’ Cato was the president of the St Vincent and the Grenadines Football Federation (SVGFF).
A number of issues emerged in rapid-fire succession that reflected our immaturity in respect of our sport administration capabilities.
Some may recall the fiasco with regard to the Columbus Cup that eventually became the Andre Kamperveen Cup, the sale of our TV Rights for a paltry $1500 USD, the decision to have Jorge Ramos become the national coach of our team instead of Everard ‘Gally’ Cummings and the 11-nil humiliation we suffered at the hands of Mexico in that Central American country.
One Mexican newspaper devoted the lead picture on each of its first 11 pages to highlight the final act in the scoring of each of the goals, a most embarrassing experience for this country.
Of course, four years later, when campaigning for the 1998 World Cup, we found ourselves virtually enmeshed in strategy that saw us bending over to serve the CONCACAF will to have that organisation sell our TV rights as part of what was then thought to be a collective sale for and on behalf of the entire membership involved in the World Cup.
While mention is made here of a particular set of issues that came to the fore regarding football, it should be noted that many of our national sports associations may well have experienced similar problems and some may still be at a stage where they struggle to get their administration to a level of professionalism enough to allow them to stand tall amongst the membership of their respective international federations.
Structure and Personnel
Sport has long since been recognised as a science. One has only to look at the approach being taken in several of the advanced nations in respect of the identification of an appropriate structure and personnel with which to compose their sporting organisations to compete favourably at all levels.
Here at home, in stark contrast, the moment we attempt to suggest the need to change the structure of our sporting organisations the media often takes the lead with a series of commentaries that lack knowledge, understanding and appreciation of what is being done and launch a series of criticisms that are of little or no significance.
We watch as at the international level the changes necessitated by several types of organisations to be in keeping with developments at the global level because they recognise that they would become irrelevant if they fail to keep pace. At home we seem to think that business as usual should be the order of the day.
Sport organisational structures require change in order to keep pace with global challenges. The old order of how it used to be done is no longer adequate.
Organisational structures must be capable of responding to the variety of new challenges emerging. They have to try to be ahead of the game and a prime mover in changes rather than be merely reacting to what happens around us.
It is the same with personnel.
We can no longer be satisfied with identifying for leadership individuals who played sport. While that is often a useful feature what is far more important is the capacity of the personnel to at one know the sport and possess the capacity to interpret trends, even at times create trends, and make the sporting organisation with which they are involved a dynamic institution addressing the needs of its constituents and taking them altogether to ever-higher levels of development.
In 1992 no one in football leadership in this country knew anything about high altitude and its impact on the players enough to advise on how the national team’s preparation for Mexico’s altitude should have been managed.
Additionally, no one in the football leadership had any knowledge about television rights and their value.
What is worse is that no one at the leadership of the sport at the time displayed any tenacity towards accessing the information in a timely manner to engage in appropriate discussions about the way in which we should have developed the sport and the association for the World Cup.
Interestingly, four years later, the local grouping that was working with the SVGFF and the SVGFF itself were in the dark when the General Secretary of CONCACAF at the time, Chuck Blazer, visited to get them to sign off over of the television rights to the latter organisation.
Unless we make fundamental changes to our approach nothing much will happen in respect of development of sport in our country.
There must be room for a more deliberate review of the respective constitutions of national sports associations to allow for the development of more relevant structures and the attraction of competent personnel willing to take the lead in the shaping of the sport, not just at the local level but also positively impacting at the regional, continental and global levels.
Some important questions are:
- Is the constitution of the association sufficiently in keeping with contemporary trends and requirements?
- Is the structure of the organisation appropriate to contemporary requirements and the changing nature of the sport at the global level?
- Are we attracting the personnel most appropriate to the development of the organisation and the sport in the country?
- How do we attract and sustain the interest and full participation of those with the competencies best suited to our organisation and sport development?
The St Vincent and the Grenadines Olympic Committee (SVGOC) has developed a Continuing Education Programme for sport personnel.
Over the past several years the SVGOC has offered training for athletes, coaches and administrators. The challenges are numerous.
Several of the national sports associations have difficulty identifying the particular individual coach to be sent forward for advanced training. On the one hand there is the requirements of the advanced nature of some of the courses and the capacity of the identified persons to make best use of the programme and not merely pass but excel in it.
There is also the issue of whether the individual is sufficiently committed to the particular association and the sport it is seeking to develop through the training provided enough to prepare case studies of the local situation for critical analysis and the formulation of new approaches, appropriately planned and executed with monitoring evaluation components fully integrated into them.
The reality in this country is the extremely long list of persons who have been exposed to training at the level of the programmes of the respective international federations (IF) as well as through the SVGOC at different places around the world. Unfortunately, each of the national sport associations that should have benefitted immensely from the persons identified on the aforementioned long list would tell of the problems encountered in getting the vast majority of the trained coaches to work in the field on a consistent basis to facilitate the long term development of the sport. This is the most disturbing feature of our efforts at genuine sport development.
The problem is that the administrators of sport in the country often spend little time planning the development of their coaches. It is often the case that this happens more by chance than a result of long term development planning.
Important questions are:
- Who are the persons capable of benefitting from the development programmes as coaches?
- Do we engage in period analysis of our coaches?
- What coaches’ development strategies are most appropriate to our association’s overall development plans?
- How do we sustain our coaches?
In the field of administration attendance at courses is also a problem. Some persons claim the lack of time to engage in sport administration programmes. Others seem to operate on the basis that being in leadership in an association may well be adequate in terms of the experience that is needed to perform appropriately.
Few sport administrators seem to appreciate that they, like the athletes, coaches and technical officials must be students of the particular sport all the days in which they are involved in it. They have to hunger and thirst after continuing education in order to be sufficiently knowledgeable and relevant to the times.
Not many of our administrators make contributions to the regional and international bodies at which they represent their respective associations. It is often the case that they lack the information and/or failed to engage in appropriate critical analysis of the agenda items in order to make meaningful contributions to the discussions on the various agenda items. Fewer still engage their national associations in discussing the full agenda prior to departure so that there is a national position adopted on each item that can be appropriately articulated and defended. This all seem to result from the absence of appropriate developmental training in the administration of the sport at home.
Administrators have to re-tool themselves frequently.
Too often administrators at the local level suggest that they have had enough training; that they have done this programme before. Few take the time to recognise that even the basic sport administration programmes that they would have done 10 years ago have undergone significant upgrade in keeping with modern trends and hence unless they re-tool they would be left behind.
It is also often the case that many of our administrators seem to think that the training they receive in administration at the level of their employment is sufficient to guide them as administrators of sporting organisations. This is not necessarily the case. While there may be some obvious similarities the sporting organisation requires a different approach to administration and often also a different utilisation of administrative skill sets/competencies.
Important questions are:
- Am I sufficiently knowledgeable/informed about the sport and its administrative requirements
- Are my existing administrative skill sets/competencies relevant to the administration of my sporting organisation?
- How can I make myself more relevant in respect of sport administration competency?
There are numerous other challenges impacting the sport development process in St Vincent and the Grenadines. We have merely addressed a few important ones here in the hope that it would stimulate discussions at the level of the respective sporting bodies with a view to engendering introspection and the application of critical strategic planning going forward.