It was all about the money. The lack of money, that is.
Government was simply in no financial position to pump another half-million dollars into the country’s most popular community football tournament in 2014, which is what led to the cancellation of this year’s David Thompson Memorial Football Classic.
That has been revealed by Minister of Social Care Steve Blackett.
“There is no doubt there was a question of funding. It was a decision we had to make. It was a heart-wrenching decision to have to call off the tournament,” Blackett told the WEEKEND NATION.
The minister noted in the three previous years the classic had been held, around $500 000 had been allocated to the Department of Constituency Empowerment through the Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure, and funds would be drawn from that to host the tournament.
But that well has run dry.
“This year, like all Government departments, allocation of finance was reduced, and it left us badly out of pocket,” the minister noted.
Blackett revealed that with little money in its coffers, Government tried to access the Arts and Sports Fund run by the Ministry of Finance, but that, too, proved futile.
“We then reached out to corporate Barbados in a last-ditch effort to have the tournament, and spoke to two sponsors. One of them looked at the tournament favourably but the purpose we held the tournament didn’t fall under their remit. The other sponsor did contribute, but nowhere near the amount we anticipated so we had to make a decision to postpone this year’s competition.”
Blackett said he knew young footballers in Barbados would be crestfallen by the cancellation.
“It was a chance for them to play the sport they love. It was also a chance for them to earn a much-needed stipend over the three months the tournament would have been held.”
And it’s not only the players who have lost out, Blackett said.
“When you look at it, this was an important three month period for many people. So many people were looking forward to this. There were caterers who were involved, as well as deejays and other entrepreneurs who would have been involved.
“That’s why it was so heart-wrenching to have to not host the competition.”
According to Blackett, the strongest character of the tournament was that it acted as a mini “stimulus package” for communities across Barbados just before the Christmas period, an important time for low-income Barbadians.
“It would have injected some energy into the economy because it engaged so much community participation.”
Blackett added that he hoped the lack of a tournament in 2014 would cause no social dislocation in Barbados, since it attracted the attention of so many young men.
But he does see light at the end of the tunnel.
“We don’t feel all is lost. We are already looking at how to do things for next year. We want the tournament back and we already have spoken to sponsors about the possibility of staging the tournament in 2015.”
Blackett said it was clear now that Government alone couldn’t be responsible for the classic.
“We are hoping these persons we have spoken to will come on board in a big way. A few groups showed interest, but it was too late for us to hold the tournament this year. We want them with us next year.”
He also revealed that come 2015, if the tournament does come off, it might be different from in previous years and in a truncated format so as to reduce overall costs.