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Sports bodies need umbrella

Andi Thornhill

Sports bodies need umbrella

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Sportsmen?must become a lot more proactive in trumpeting their causes this year.
And they should do it preferably as a unified body.
The old adage of unity being strength has yet to be proven as an untruth.
Numbers make a huge difference, particularly when there is one accord.
As I write, there is not a single body representing the interests of sportsmen.
This can in no way help to address or solve some or most of the common issues that affect them.
The approach is too insular and fragmented to make a serious impact in the call for change to the way some sports administrations are run and how teams and individuals are treated. I think the opposite could be true if sports personnel band together and stick together for their common good.
I will give two scenarios which might bring some lucid perspective to my reasoning.
In the first instance, I could mention how frustrated many athletes continue to be with the Run Barbados series.
Every year they complain about what they perceive as a discriminatory prize structure which they think favours foreign competitors.
They also have general concerns about the level to which the series has dropped compared to what it was in its infancy, having started in 1983.
We all know of the quality runners we used to attract in both the 10K and the marathon.
We know of the huge crowds these events used to attract when the principle organizers were Barbadian.
We saw its significance as a tourism aid because of the number of visitors who participated if only for the fun element. It was intended to help boost the industry in what was seen as a slow period.
If we are honest, we would confess that Run Barbados is now a mere shadow of its former self since foreigners have been contracted to play the leading role in organizing the racing aspect of it.
I’m just saying these are some of the pertinent observations I would hear from local athletes year after year in their little groups and occasionally on call-in programmes.
Valid as the concerns are, nobody in authority pays attention to what they are saying because they are not seen as a uniform group pushing for real change.
I honestly believe that if the athletes had some official body targeting the Barbados Tourism Authority (BTA) to consider the local perspective, the BTA would be forced to reinvent the wheel to the mutual benefit of all.
The other scenario involves the grooms in horse racing. For donkey years they have been perceived as the pariahs of the Garrison.
They worked the longest hours for the smallest pay and some observers even said that they were sometimes treated in a less than respectable manner.
Notwithstanding that they are not employees of the Barbados Turf Club, I think people out of ignorance blamed this organization for the woes of the grooms.
The grooms work at the discretion of the owners and trainers, and as I understand it, are paid for the number of horses they groom. Most are employed by the respective stables.
In the latter half of last year their concerns were made public in respect of their working conditions, wages and how they felt they were being treated by their employers.
At one stage they threatened to withdraw their services, which would have been chaotic for stakeholders on a race day.
Alas, common sense prevailed and a movement to get them unionised was led by Richard “Baje” Prescod.
My latest information is that they have been successful in this regard and are represented by the Barbados Workers’ Union.
The point is that they may not have gotten everything they wanted since the union stepped in but that determination as a group to gain greater respect as hardworking human beings caught somebody’s attention.
Therein lies the moral of the story and it should be used as a model.
Many have grave concerns about the National Senior Games and its selection process for the World Games in Utah, United States.
They might find a resolution with a concerted organised approach to the Government body that oversees the Senior Games.
There are disgruntled cyclists who rant and rave on a regular basis about how things are administered. Several are disillusioned with other organizations but they can only force administrators to take them seriously through sustained advocacy as an umbrella group.
Then there are the volleyball, basketball and badminton associations whose use of the Wildey Gymnasium is marginalized and whose performances in major tournaments may be compromised arguably because they are not accorded enough time there to prepare.
It is not fair when this happens and we lament and lambast the players for under-performing.
You could argue that facilities may not be the only reason why some squads do badly but we as a state have to ensure that our sports ambassadors are afforded the best conditions possible in their quest to succeed.
Still, I don’t remember the above-mentioned organizations lobbying the Government as a united body to have their issues resolved. Each has put its individual position instead. They suffer the same fate every year.
Several years ago, I remember Cassius Taitt urging footballers to form their own association and while they made some initial strides, it fizzled out never to be heard of since.
The footballers have been the biggest losers because if they had stayed together to put fire under the Barbados Football Association, it would not remain as inept as it appears to be at times.
Players can only benefit from well organized institutions which will have their agenda at heart and never lose sight of their mandate which was given through elections at annual general meetings.
Duly elected officers, even in voluntary, non-profit organizations, must be made to pull their weight or be forced to resign.
It would take an entire newspaper to chronicle the number of concerns I have heard from athletes in various associations in a 36-year journalistic career,  and I have always contended that an umbrella grouping provides the best means to confront their challenges.
The each man for himself approach hasn’t worked and probably will never work. This merely strengthens the hands of some administrators who may simply be uncaring. Period.
Still, it is never too late for a shower of rain, so it is not too late to do the right thing.
Sportsmen, unite for your own benefit and the generation that follows!

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