ATHLETE WELFARE & PREPARATION FUND

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Brian Lewis, president of the T&T Olympic Committee has welcomed government’s National Sports Policy (NSP) which was laid in Parliament on Friday and outlined the government’s intention to improve sport locally, from development to rewarding the country’s achievers.

Lewis, who has been championing the cause for good governance and accountability in sport among other things, however, believes that National Governing Bodies (NGBs) and National Sporting Organizations (NSOs) must rise to the challenge of the government by accepting increased scrutiny and taking a lead role in ensuring that monies from the public purse achieve the value it demands.

Guardian Media Sports yesterday highlighted some of the intentions of the NSP that includes handsome monetary rewards to athletes excelling at the major international tournaments and competitions, to ways of accessing funding for preparation and development. It also includes maintenance of facilities and support for implementation and the achievement of desired outcomes.

Lewis described the NSP as a significant statement of intent by the government coming particularly in the midst of the current economic environment. He said, it is now a duty by all, particularly the NGBs/NSOs to rise to the challenge of ensuring that there is accountability and transparency.

However, he’s predicting that there will be major challenges in the coming years, particularly related to the availability and implementation of funds.

He called for policy discipline among the NGBs, as well as the realisation that resources being pumped into sports is a form of investment.

Lewis who is also president of the Caribbean National Olympic Committee (CANOC) believes this new development will lead to the election and appointment of persons with key skill sets on diverse committees at the NGB/NSO level to ensure that there is balance. These individuals he believes must be independent and must function as directors.

Sports in T&T have been rocked severely by the downturn in the national economy, due mainly to the reduction in the price of oil and gas. And according to Lewis, this has been evident by the problems seen in sports recently.

Recently Olympian Richard Thompson found himself in a war of words with a Ministry of Sport official to access elite athletes funding, and there have been concerns raised by other athletes who have experienced similar challenges to access funds from government to prepare for major international competitions, as well as rewards for doing well.

Lewis is calling for a change in mindset, saying it can no longer be seen as a free ride for NGBs/NSO, especially with taxpayers money involved.

Lewis has been leading this challenge through the T&TOC with ongoing development programmes, such as capacity building which is currently ongoing for athletes and sports administrators.

WALTER ALIBEY

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