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A THORNY ISSUE: Stoute won’t be easy to replace

ANDI THORNHILL, [email protected]

A THORNY ISSUE: Stoute won’t be easy to replace

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THE REIGN of the King is virtually at an end but after he goes what happens next?

This is the first thought that courted my mind after veteran sports administrator Steve Stoute announced he was on the verge of giving up his post on multiple organisations.

Our concern for sure will focus on the running of the Barbados Olympic Association (BOA), which Stoute has headed for decades. Obviously, it won’t necessarily be the length of tenure that would come under the microscope, but the quality of his stewardship is what most of us in the sporting arena would want to examine.

From listening to those who have had the privilege of working with him, it comes across as though he is an able, proactive, outstanding leader of an organisation that provides financing, technical assistance and advice to over 25 sporting bodies and is a working partner with Government and some non-governmental organisations.

stevestouteThe Steve Stoute I know has been someone who is always willing to facilitate and put measures in place and make things happen for the development of sports once he is in a position to do it.

For people of my vintage, the masterful administrator first earned his stripes as head of the Barbados Cycling Union (BCU) and especially for the role he played in bringing international cycling to Barbados in the mid 1970s. The important thing to note about that project is that we were given the opportunity to see world champions in their prime at the National Stadium.

His skill as a commentator also stood out. His description of the races, particularly of the devil take the hindmost, left the sold-out crowds in stiches. Local cycling never had it so good, or since, his departure from the BCU.

Affable nature

I have no doubt that it was Stoute’s affable nature, along with his obvious administrative skills, that was a key factor in what was then a smoothly run organisation. The truth in this is probably borne out in the tumultuous climate, especially now, in which cycling operates and the litany of disputes and hurdles compared to when he was there.

It seems, more than ever, that his personality and how he handled business were pivotal in keeping the group together.

It highlights the fact that giant leaders are a special breed and it’s not restricted to sports either. The two leading political administrations have experienced less than smooth transitions once they had to function without their iconic leaders.

I believe that there would have been issues during Stoute’s watch in cycling that didn’t have consensus, but the high standard of governance eliminated the regular occurrence of acrimony and washing dirty linen in public that we now see.

Some could very well argue that his ethnic background may have made it possible to pull certain strings that others can’t, but my observation is that Stoute was well loved and appreciated by one and all. My impression is that he would have gotten the job done irrespective of whatever challenges he faced.

Against this background, in my opinion it is pertinent to ponder what kind of transition and transformation we will witness after his pending exit from the BOA.

Hard act to follow

I am not forecasting that the institution will suddenly collapse, but Stoute will be the proverbial hard act to follow. The person that takes over as president can expect to have his shadow hanging over him for quite some time because those on the executive and administrative staff would have become used to the way he steered the ship, and would take time relating to a new captain at the helm. It is human nature and the obvious comparisons will be made even if or after that individual proves their worth.

You see, over the years Stoute would have built a huge bank of respect with enough reserves to last a lifetime and this would have been instrumental in him getting a lot of things done for sports on behalf of the BOA. I would guess it wasn’t so at the beginning of his reign because he had to prove himself and gain the trust of individuals he dealt with at all levels.

It is quite probable that his successor will come from among those already within the walls of the BOA, so their profiles might be very well known to the public and other key stakeholders at large, but they will still have to prove they can get the job done in a manner that upholds the integrity and dignity of the office they hold.

They also have to concentrate on the building of cordial relationships across the board to keep the work of the BOA relevant and purposeful, not to mention efficient.

I recognise that there are quite a few youthful administrators who show a great interest in how the organisation functions and want a piece of the action. They will have fresh ideas to bring on board and a way must be found to integrate them without the fear of feeling insecure among long-serving members.

A way must also be found to co-opt more volunteers who have a genuine interest in sports and want to make a contribution from a non executive perspective or position.

So yes, Stoute will be sorely missed when he goes but it’s going to be very intriguing to see what sporting life will be without him after his very distinguished and noted tenure.

• Andi Thornhill is a veteran sports journalist.