Athlete, coach, structural and community development were the main takeaways for sport coming out of Monday’s national budget.
Though he did not give a figure for the government’s investment in sport over the next fiscal year, Minister of Finance Colm Imbert outlined several plans for growth, from the community level to elite athletes and coaches.
In his budget presentation, Imbert proposed to boost sporting disciplines such as cricket, football, netball, athletics, and where available, aquatics, at various levels of development, and in multiple communities.
“I have allocated $39 million in 2024 to allow for the fostering and promotion of community sports.
“This allocation will be used to assist local sporting clubs and organisations in the hosting and management of community sporting events and competition, specialised training at the community level and the procurement of sporting equipment for use in communities.
"There can be no denying the level of talent which resides among our citizens.
“We are promoting sports in communities with emphasis on the participation of women and girls in sporting activities,” he said.
TT Cricket Board (TTCB) president Azim Bassarath welcomed the investment and believes it should play an important role in unearthing future national and regional talent.
“I am very pleased to hear of the additional allocation for community sports. "He said that was where international sporting heroes emerge and start to develop.
“That is a move in the right direction. Pumping this allocation into community sports will bring a lot of people back to the playing fields.”
Bassarath recalled, some time ago, he asked for an allocation from the government, to help premiership clubs prepare to play cricket for three days rather than two to improve the nation's and region’s chances in the game's longest format.
On the development of TT’s athletes and coaches, in sports such as athletics, football and cycling, among others, Imbert said the government has partnered with regional sporting powerhouse Jamaica to aid TT’s progress.
“We will continue to develop our athletes to improve their performance. We are taking steps to strengthen the capacity of our coaches. We are providing specialist training and partnership with the GC Foster College of Physical Education and Sport in Jamaica.
“We are on the way to replicating 'brand Jamaica' in our sporting discipline, particularly in swimming, cycling, athletics and football, both for men and women.”
Local cycling president Rowena Williams lauded the government’s collaborative developmental initiative and said it augurs well for the future of athletes.
“This has always been the focus over the last year. I think it is important for us to put structures in place for the development of sport in TT.
“We welcome the measures, as sport is the avenue to be used to reduce crime in this country. Giving young people the opportunity to develop their skills will always be a step in the right direction in producing high performance athletes.”
Earlier this year, Minister of Sport and Community Development Shamfa Cudjoe said one of her goals was to increase indoor and outdoor sporting activities in primary and secondary schools.
She and Minister of Education Nyan Gadsby-Dolly visited Jamaica earlier this year, as part of ongoing bilateral discussions on bolstering sports and athletics, particularly at the school level, throughout TT.
Imbert also said the government will fund Special Olympics of TT to assist with preparing and participating at the upcoming Special Olympics World Games in Germany.
On modernising TT’s sporting infrastructure, Imbert confirmed this remains a top priority over the next fiscal year.
He highlighted that, over the past year, “The Hasely Crawford Stadium (Mucurapo) was substantially refurbished at a cost of $90 million to accommodate the...2023 seventh Commonwealth Youth Games in August.”
He confirmed that the “legendary” Mahaica Sports Complex in Point Fortin, with a seating capacity of 1,795, had been completed at a cost of $80 million, and reconstruction and rehabilitation of Skinner Park in San Fernando was also complete. It now has a seating capacity of 3,000 in its covered stands, and another 3,000 in uncovered stands.
On existing and future projects, he said, “Construction is under way to restore and put back into the service the modernised, redesigned version of the historic JP Smarts Velodrome in Palo Seco.”
Imbert added that the Maloney Community Swimming Pool was completed for $12 million and the D’Abadie/Malabar Swimming Pool, to be commissioned in November, at a cost of $11 million, “will provide new recreational activities to the surrounding communities.”
“These will join the pools at Soogrim Trace, Laventille; Coconut Drive, Morvant; San Fernando; Diego Martin; and soon-to-be constructed La Horquetta and Biche facilities in providing an explosion of activities in water safety and watersports competition across the nation.”
In closing, Imbert added that the Government was streamlining sport development by creating a special commission to oversee a platform for the necessary funding of events and athletes, and also to be responsible for helping various national bodies, schools and communities to develop long-term plans and structures for the growth of sport.
“In this new framework, the SporTT will limit its work to the maintenance of national facilities.”
Last year, the allocation was just over $760 million.
He also congratulated the local organising committee for successfully hosting the seventh Commonwealth Youth Games in August.
Imbert also showered praise on the local team, which captured 16 medals, and credited national swimmer Nikoli Blackman on his gold-medal swim in the 50m freestyle at the World Junior Swimming Champs, in early September.