Sports Policy Review Necessary

review The first draft of the National Sports Policy for St Vincent and the Grenadines was the work of the National Olympic Committee following a series of consultations with stakeholders across St Vincent and the Grenadines in the 1990s. Since then the Policy has been reviewed on two occasions.
We are now into 2013 and it is important that we take another look at what obtains and the requirements of the changing times.
One is not certain as to whether the government is aware of the content of the National Sports Policy since its mode of operation is so often at variance with it. We may do well to remind ourselves of the objectives set out for the National Sports Policy.
The objectives of the National Sports Policy shall be as follows:
1. To ensure that physical education, sports and recreation are an integral part of Vincentian life.
2. To develop an active, healthy, physically and mentally fit nation through involvement in physical education, sport and recreational activities.
3. To promote and encourage mass participation in physical education, sports and recreation activities by deliberate educational programmes under the ambit of ‘Sports For All’.
4. To establish a range of incentives and appropriate awards for those involved in the sports development process.
5. To encourage Sports Tourism as an integral component of national development.
A critical analysis of the foregoing sends us into something of a tailspin.
In the first instance the talk is about the importance of physical education being important but it is yet to be compulsory in all of our educational institutions.
We have addressed this matter before.
We have several individuals who have been trained abroad in physical education. Many of these individuals are aware that we are starting the physical education programme at the wrong level – the secondary school. Some have even gone so far as to make this known publicly.
How much longer must we make the case for reviewing our approach in this regard?
It makes little sense to ignore the formative years of the student – preschool and elementary school levels – and hasten to introduce them to the subject – physical education – at the secondary school. In many respects we are flogging a dead horse.
Our National Sports Policy must therefore insist on a comprehensive review of the approach to physical education by starting at the earliest levels with appropriately trained personnel leading the process.
The most appropriate place for our degreed personnel in physical education is at the starting point where it matters most.
Secondly, we have to conceptualise the importance of physical culture to the well being of the entire population. This is the quintessence of the objectives of the National Sports Policy as currently obtains.
The idea is to facilitate mass participation in physical activity such that we move in the direction of a wholesome nation, fit and healthy.
When we look at many of the Scandinavian countries we recognise the extent to which they are driven by a very strong physical culture. The bicycle is used throughout the cities during the day as a means of getting to and from work, to and from lunch. No one finds it appalling that people are everywhere riding bicycles in their work suits. It is because it is ingrained in them.
The aforementioned nations understand the meaning of Sport for all and have been proficient at it long before the concept was articulated anywhere.
Physical activity is a way of life.
The problem here at home is that we seem to think that it is only when we begin to age that fitness is necessary.
We seem to pride ourselves at having overweight children and think little of obesity and its negative impact on the lives of these children.
The National Sport Policy here must seek to carry us as a people even further than our Scandinavian counterparts where physical activity in our lives is concerned. This is the foundation of all sport. But even if people choose not to go further in sport they would nonetheless lead healthy lives.
While the objectives are clear perhaps they do not go far enough and we need to do more to ensure that they are realised.
Nothing can happen in the realm of physical activity and sport, as is the case with every other aspect of life, without money.
The National Sports Policy states…The financing of sports development in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines shall take a tripartite approach: Government, private sector and National Sports Associations.
While the foregoing may well have been the intention and it occurs in practice there is no coming together of the three stakeholders at any time to determine what is required let alone what would be made available.
As things are at present, for national sports associations, the mantra is really, what you see is what you get.
In most countries the government is always the single largest contributor to the finances allocated to sport. Most of this funding usually goes in the provision of infrastructure for the different sports practise din the country.
Where governments are genuinely committed to the sport development process founded upon an understanding of and appreciation for its multidimensional contributions to national wellbeing the provision of infrastructure is done in tandem with the national sports associations. Unfortunately that is not the case here.
More often than not sport infrastructure is provided by the government based on politics; the opportunity to capture votes from different communities. It is the reason that so often we have some clumsy spaces designated playing fields.
In some instances the work is done only when election comes around. A case in point is the new playing at Cumberland. It started in preparation for the general elections of 2005. Worked stopped following the conclusion of the elections. Work resumed just prior to the general elections of 2010 and ceased immediately following their conclusion.
Work is expected to resume as the government prepares for the next general elections.
It is therefore safe to say that the government often wastes resources on infrastructure because of the political interventions that drive the process of determining what is to be constructed, where located and when to be undertaken.
The National Sports Policy states…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 channelled through the National Sports Council and the National Sports Foundation.
Rather interestingly this is one of the areas that remain a challenge for all those involved in serious sport in this country.
No one has ever been able to say, categorically, what is the annual contribution of the government – inclusive of the National Lotteries Authority – to sport.
For the past several years, the annual budget presentation by the Minister of Finance of this country has barely gone beyond two paragraphs devoted to sport.
For several years the budget reflected that the finances allocated to the construction of a national stadium was coming from Libya. The truth is that after the initial contribution of $1.5m USD nothing else came from Libya towards the stadium.
We know that the government allocated over $50m ECD for the Cricket World Cup Goat Cook warm up matches.
Government also allocates funds to the National Sports Council, and the Division of Sports, the bulk of which caters to salaries.
The National Lotteries Authority makes allocations to different sporting bodies and sports infrastructural projects.
At the end of the year, Vincentians do not know the total amount of funds allocated to sport.
If we are to be realistic in our analysis of what obtains viz-a-viz what is in the National Sports Policy, we must admit that the two are not in sync.
Today, sport is a business. Unfortunately we do not seem to understand this.
Participation in sport is an expensive undertaking and here again, we fall well short of the mark in comparison to what obtains elsewhere.
Politicians love to talk about the importance of sport but do little to show that they understand what this means and what it must necessarily entail.
The nice sounding platitudes that emanate from the political platforms do nothing for those willing to engage in the rigorous training necessary to facilitate national representation.
Unfortunately, they have little to show.
The Policy also states…Sporting goods imported by and/or donated to National Sports Associations from outside St Vincent and the Grenadines for the expressed purpose of the developing the respective disciplines shall be eligible for duties exemption.
A recent decision by the government now excludes uniforms or any form of sport clothing. Of course there was no consultation with national sports associations on this.
Interestingly, earlier this year, the National Olympic Committee was made to pay over $2,000 in duties for a stock of branded uniforms donated to St Vincent and the Grenadines by Commonwealth Games Canada. The latter had benefitted from the donation of uniforms from a club in Canada that had changed sponsor and suggested that others could benefit from those that were not yet used.
St Vincent and the Grenadines is the only country where the NOC accepted the donation and in turn had to pay duty.
National teams are already carrying a heavy burden in trying to meet the expenses associated with organising local competitions, participating in regional and international competitions.
While the government has the right and power to do as it pleases it nonetheless seems grossly unfair for the government to unilaterally abandon components of the National Sports Policy without involving all stakeholders.
If the Policy is merely to be a paper Tiger and nothing else then we might as well abandon it altogether.