The decision to overhaul the Sports Company of Trinidad and Tobago and to replace it with a Sports Commission is potentially a welcome move but it must come in the context of a well-considered national sport policy. The potential impact of a single, centralized sporting body could be profound.
In outlining the broad principles behind the move in the budget on Monday, Finance Minister Colm Imbert hinted the commission could play a key role in mediating conflicts within the sporting arena and act as an administrative umbrella for a range of sport events and organisations.
“We are now reviewing the governance structures and systemic arrangements for the delivery of sport services with a view to increasing efficiency and streamlining processes,” Imbert said. “We are putting in place the Sports Commission for Trinidad and Tobago and developing requisite legislation which will address issues such as sports events management, sport dispute resolution and management of national sporting bodies.”
A single commission responsible for a procedure of dispute resolution overseeing the range of sporting bodies can result in a standardisation of procedures and, therefore, a more efficient sharing of a limited pool of resources. Recent experience has demonstrated how conflict within these organisations can have national implications.
The matter involving gymnast Thema Williams, which is before the courts, demonstrated just how important it is for a timely and efficient way for conflict to be resolved. A special procedure tailored to the demands of sporting organisations which often have specific competition timelines to meet could be useful.There is nothing more damaging to sport than those moments when things break down to the extent that the national conversation focuses on contention and not on the positive work being put in by our nationals. One single organisation might also be useful if headway is to be made on the issue of doping in sport. A commission could have synergies with or even adopt the functions of the Trinidad and Tobago Anti-Doping Disciplinary Panel which is supposed to be the body policing this issue. Certainly, doping scandals can do irreparable damage to our international reputation, undermining the efforts of all our hardworking sportswomen and sportsmen. A commission could help police all sporting organisations ensuring they achieve compliance.
We look forward to the finalisation of a national sport policy which, according to Sport Minister Darryl Smith, is due to be taken to Cabinet. Such a policy should include provisions relating to procurement as well as the upkeep of our international-standard sport facilities, a matter which is easily overlooked. Too often, billion-dollar facilities are opened and, as the years pass, they are brought low by wear and tear until they are no longer suitable for world-class use.
The recent performance of our athletic teams at the 16th IAAF World Championships and the World Para Athletics Championships in London, England is a reminder of the importance of having systems in place to allow our nationals to shine both at home and abroad.
If we are serious about sport tourism as a revenue earner, then the State needs to ensure it can make the most use of limited resources.Also, the public should have an easy way to contribute to the development of sport. They should be able to liaise with a single, well-administered sporting body that oversees crucial sponsorship matters. A new sport commission must be able to learn from the mistakes of the special purpose private enterprise model while also pushing forward with innovative reforms to nurture our achievers.