Vincentian sport at 31st anniversary of Independence

This year St Vincent and the Grenadines observes its 31st anniversary of Independence. As has become the norm we continue to challenge the celebrations that we have on occasions such as this if only because of the growing dependence that we have been witnessing over the past several years in particular.
The current political administration has, perhaps more than any other in the history of St Vincent and the Grenadines has been showing the rest of the world how much we are incapable of bringing ourselves as a people out of the malaise of dependency. In the midst of what constitutes a most decrepit ‘beggar maid’ policy the administration has failed to come to an understanding of the potential of sport and the tremendous contribution that it can make to the attainment at once of genuine independence as it strives after national development.
As the general election comes ever closer we have the gross misfortune of the current administration in hot pursuit of the votes of sportspeople. Thus we have the newly installed Senator, Ces Mc Kie, mouthing initiatives in sport that have been around for a very long time and which can be nothing more than promises for votes.
It is extremely embarrassing for someone who has been involved in sport for so many years of his life to reflect on the past 10 years of ULP rule to come before the national sporting community at this late stage suggesting perhaps that he should be believed.
It was the National Olympic Committee that ensured that St Vincent and the Grenadines has a National Sports Policy. But having a policy in place is but a necessary first step. Without implementation the policy is useless.
The latest revision of the policy – Cabinet Memo 421/05 – speaks to the promotion of Sport for All but the governmental authorities do not have a clue as to precisely what this means and hence, what it involves. They have, by and large, been tinkering at the edges.
Over the years we have had great difficulty implementing the National Sports Policy and one wonders whether the political leadership has ever taken the time to read and understand the content of the document and the underlying philosophy.
The current political administration has not shown any capacity to appreciate the National Sports Policy to which it so often claims to be committed.
Vincentian athletes still experience great difficulty to get time off from their work to engage in what has been defined as ‘national duty’ – representing St Vincent and the Grenadines. Despite claiming to be so pro-sport the government has not been able to achieve this simple undertaking.
It takes an inordinately long time for any national sports association to access duty free concessions on the importation of sporting goods for the development of their sport. The government still seems uncertain of the process; whether the documentation should first be sent to the National Sports Council (NSC) or directly to the Ministry of Finance. In any event the process takes so long that on many occasion national associations find themselves literally begging their way from one minister to another in an effort to get the policy-approved duty free access.
National associations also experience great difficulty trying to convince the authorities that the equipment is not for re-sale.
The matter of assisting athletes abroad is another major challenge. The truth is that the money is often just not there to be provided and the parents of some of these athletes are made to feel like beggars, traipsing the steps to and from the Public Services Commission to know whether or not assistance is made available.
Article 1.9 of the policy states, Area Sports Committees (ASC) shall be encouraged. Unfortunately, the authorities seem handicapped in this regard given the seeming desire to ensure that the ruling party is well represented and exerts some measure of influence on the organisation. This has prevented what should otherwise be an important tool for a harmonised and integrated approach to sport and by extension national development.
National Sports Council
The National Sports Council must be one of the most unfortunate organisations in this country. For its many years of existence the organisation would have great difficulty chronicling for Vincentians its achievements and legacy to future generations.
Saddled with an immensely expansive portfolio and the contradiction of decidedly limited funding, the NSC remains lost. In light of the foregoing it is therefore pure, unadulterated nonsense for Messrs McKie and Browne to be engage din the making of promises in respect of sport infrastructure development under the ULP government on the even of general elections.
Its focus more than anything else is on the nation’s premier sporting facility – Arnos Vale # 1. Note we did not say here the Arnos Vale Sports Complex because the available resources prevent the organisation from adequately addressing the needs of the entire area.
The problems of the NSC begin with the failure of the authorities to establish a clear vision and mission for the organisation. It is all too confusing. In the absence of a broad-based organisation guiding the national sport development process the NSC is adrift on the high seas, lost in so far as the comprehensive development of sport in St Vincent and the Grenadines is concerned.
The NSC has often indicated the process to access funding for National Sports Associations. This is essentially flawed. It involves submitting one’s request to the NSC, which then makes a recommendation to the National Lotteries Authority (NLA). This recommendation is copied to the Association concerned. However when an Association requires information on the status of its request it is directed to the NLA rather than be appropriately informed by the NSC where the application was submitted in the first instance.
The NSC does not have any idea of the general annual needs of Associations such that it could prepare budgets that could be discussed with the NLA and thereby ensure a strategic allocation of funds to the governing sport bodies.
Athletes are considered the single most important component of sport. In St Vincent and the Grenadines they are the most ignored, with the possible exception of Pamenos Ballantyne who has benefitted most from the political largesse.
The achievements of Adonal Foyle have gone without due recognition from the current political administration and one wonders whether this has to do with the fact that the Grenadines have not voted in its favour.
The achievements of Earl ‘Ole George’ Daniel and Joel Butcher have been sidelined and again one wonders whether it is because they have not played the political game.
The much-vaunted programme that saw the attachment of leading athletes – hand-picked by the leadership of the government – to certain private-sector institutions from whom they received some assistance, has disappeared without a whisper.
Whenever athletes are successful however, they are quickly made near-pawns in the political process.
Due consideration is never given to the requirements of our athletes.
The National Sports Council Act places responsibility for sport infrastructure under the NSC. The NSC has however never been provided with the resources to practically undertake this responsibility as it should.
Article 1.3 of the policy declares, Facilities for Physical Education, Recreation and Sports, wherever feasible, must take into consideration the population spread and the location of schools, in order to benefit from optimal utilization. The reality however has been that the dynamics of the general elections and the desire to win votes have had more influence on when and where sport facilities are constructed than any other factor. The NSC often seems to be running behind the ruling regime than being allowed to do its work and provide government with sound advice in this regard. The result is a hodgepodge approach to the location and construction of sports facilities in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Recently the latest promises coming from the government through the Ministers involved in Sport relate to the return of the national stadium on the front burner and the covering of the hard court at the Girls High School. In the case of the latter there has been a rather disturbing development and one that speaks to the decadent politics of the day. The Volleyball Association has been offered an Indoor Court by the governing body at the regional level. This is a synthetic surface consistent with the current international standards. The local Association does not have a home and clearly cannot accept the gift without such a facility. It seems that someone in government authority has suggested that the Volleyball Association request of its regional body that the country would prefer a multipurpose court that could be placed at the covered Girls High School court and therefore allow more indoor sports to be played there. Cleary the Volleyball Association cannot do this. It would be preposterous for the Association to be so out of order as to tell its parent body that it wants a court that would serve more that the very sport that the latter is seeking to develop. But the local governmental authorities see nothing wrong here. Thankfully the Volleyball Association has allowed good sense to prevail. The results is that the organisation has lost the opportunity for a court as the government seems incapable of considering a home for the sport.
Cricket, the major beneficiary under the ULP administration, has lost its prided position in the region and the chances of accessing the more attractive matches have all but evaporated, leaving Arnos Vale # 1 more readily available for religious activities as well as for different forms of entertainment than for the sport for which it was originally constructed and rather ex[pensively refurbished.
Article 1.9 of the policy states in full,  Area Sports Committees (ASC) shall be encouraged and designated responsibility for the use and maintenance of facilities, attendant equipment and amenities and shall, in turn, be responsible to the National Sports Council.
This has however been a near-impossible situation. It remains a most embarrassing reality that the NSC takes personnel and equopment from its Arnos Vale headquarters to the various playing facilities around the country to cut grass and work on other aspects of the infrastructure. This cannot be cost effective but it continues to be the stock-in-trade practice. No one seems to care.
The ruling regime has been unable to empower communities to take responsibility for their own facilities because the people do not have a sense of ownership. The concept of consultative democracy that we have repeatedly been told is an important part of good governance seems as remote in this country’s sports arena today as ever before. To some the situation may well have grown worse.
As we celebrate Independence the sports fraternity in St Vincenta nd the Gredine shave nothing to shout about. Whatever promises are being made now by the ruling regime come against the backdrop of its horrible failure to deliver on thos emade as far back as 2000.
There islittle reason to believe that even if the current adminsitration were to access funding to do all that is now being promised there will be resources allocated to sustain them once the elections are concluded.
Vincetian sportspeople are forewarned not to allow themslves ot become the latest generation of political patsies.