AT least two national hockey players who were part of this country’s historic debut appearance at the 2018 Men’s Indoor Hockey World Cup in Berlin last February have been asked to return cheques given to them as rewards by the Ministry of Sport.
Last week, the Ministry of Sport hosted a joint ceremony at the National Racquet Centre, Tacarigua, to launch the 2017-2027 National Policy on Sport, as well as to reward athletes who qualified for and/or medalled at major international sporting events. Dozens of athletes received cash rewards which totalled over $5.3 million.
Members of the hockey team that participated at the World Cup as well as national women volleyballers who qualified for the first time for their World Cup in Japan received cheques at the ceremony.
However, there has been an error with the disbursement of cheques for the men’s hockey team.
Management and players were informed days after receiving their cheques that only those who were on the team that qualified for the World Cup were to be rewarded with $25,000 each.
Following the team’s qualification for the World Cup, there were three changes made to the squad for the Berlin tournament. The replacement players received their cheques at the ceremony and at least two have been asked to return them.
“A few days after (the ceremony), questions arose and we were told via a WhatsApp message that the Ministry paid cheques to all involved in the World Cup,” a source close to the team told Newsday.
“Then the next day, a message via WhatsApp went out stating two men on the squad, after receiving their cheques, would have to return it as there was an error by the Ministry.”
The source also raised an issue of an alleged promise made by former Minister of Sport Darryl Smith to reward all the players and staff who qualified for the World Cup. The source claims that the promise to the technical staff – Darren Cowie, Raphael Govia, Kirth Davis and videographer Kern Lee – did not materialise and they weren’t paid incentives by the TT Hockey Board (TTHB) or the Ministry of Sport.
“We were told by former Minister of Sport early 2018 that we all would be receiving funds for our achievements. We took a team to the World Cup!” the source declared. Contacted for a response, Minister of Sport Shamfa Cudjoe said she was told that there were two hockey players that were asked to return their cheques because they were not a part of the hockey team that qualified for the World Cup and it was a result of a mix-up of names submitted to the Ministry of Sport.
She later received more information on the matter from the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Sport, who outlined that in the policy for sport, only those who go through the qualification process for a major tournament will be rewarded.
“The policy speaks clearly to the qualifying team, people who play in the qualifiers. Apparently that was misinterpreted and some names that were submitted to the ministry were the people who played in the February (World Cup) games. The policy speaks to those who played in the qualifiers, because it’s rewarding them for qualifying for the first time and the technical staff for that qualifying team.”
She said money for the technical staff went to the TTHB. She added, however, that the ministry does not dictate how money given to the national governing body is used. “Money for the technical staff goes to the NGB. We don’t tell the NGB what to do with the money after. That’s to help (the NGB) improve the technical capacity,” she said.