It’s not who wins or loses an election but how those in power govern. National Sport Organisations (NSOs) are responsible for the governance, development, administration of their sport and all else that goes with those mandates. This includes advocating for sport as a key pillar for the economic and social development of T&T.
Politicians and decision makers seem conflicted about giving sport a seat at the table. I believe that the public supports the idea of a key role for sport in the national, economic and social development of T&T. Economic factors underpin the problems facing sport, however, it is important to change the conversation in T&T about sport and move away from the superficial attitude and approach.
The Ministry of Sport and the Sport Company, guided by Government’s policy on sport will facilitate and provide tax payer’s funds subject to the availability of funds from Ministry of Finance. NSOs that allow their autonomy and authority for their sport to be compromised on the basis that they get Ministry of Sport or the Sport Company funding as a convenient excuse must not be allowed to get away with this deception.
The buck stops with the NSOs, not the Ministry of Sport or the Sport Company. The ongoing reality of elite level athletes both individual and team sports having to participate in international competition and Olympic Qualifiers woefully underprepared and under resourced is manifestly unfair on our individual athletes and national teams.
It is the standard to roll out aggregate financial figures to justify that financial support has been given. But that is just half the story. The grassroot reality of sport for those who have no political or other agenda is that sport in T&T has always been a battle; and don’t imagine the struggle will ever get any easier.
Unless political parties are prepared to commit from a policy perspective to make sport a key pillar in their forward vision for the country, the sustainable development of sport and aspirations to achieve ten or more gold medals by the year 2024 will continue to be a struggle.
International headlines for the wrong reasons and the negative impact on the country’s image. Problems and trouble never go away by denial. The uncomfortable truth is a stark fact of life. It takes real courage to search for the truth and to face the consequences.
We continue to send our national athletes and national teams to important international and Continental events including Olympic qualifiers, underprepared. Those who hide behind their desks, papers and pens and ineffective and shortsighted policies and processes, can continue to do so but it’s the athletes and national teams that face the embarrassment and humiliation.
Appreciate and understand the damage to brand T&T and the importance of protecting our country’s brand. We can’t let others with vested interest define our brand. We have to define it ourselves. Sport helps T&T market itself internationally. Transformation of the sport system is a strategic priority. Sport leaders are elected by sport stakeholders. The ultimate responsibility for their sport is the mandate of the NSOs.
NSOs including the T&T Olympic Committee must do what they were elected to do, which is lead not hide behind the Ministry of Sport and the Sport Company.
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Brian Lewis is the president of the T&T Olympic Committee. The views expressed are not necessarily those of the Olympic Committee.