Sports in need: things to ponder

I know I do not know the whole story, but I was struck by a few comments over the past few days, all of which go to the little that is done for sporting people by their parent institutions. I’m just going to repeat what was said, assuming that it’s true. I’ve no reason to disbelieve because the persons making the comments have ‘skin in the game’ in the form of children or relatives participating. How can sports be developed if so much of what needs to be funded can only come from the pockets of the participants? The latest comment related to swimming and what a parent felt was the lamentable support from the Amateur Swimming Association of Jamaica. Is it really the case that to represent the country swimmers “have to go begging” for money from sponsors?

What I discovered over the past few days that taxes on gambling fund a large amount of sports (and other forms of development, e.g. through the CHASE (Culture, Health, Arts, Sports and Education) Fund). Money is clearly lacking in a broad sense, and the need for sponsors is constant.

I know that ‘begging’ is not limited to any particular sports. I heard about the struggles to get a prestigious golf tournament underway until “the sponsors came through”.

I imagine that in a climate of stringent conditions in public finance, government support is likely to be slim. Also, the overall economic weakness should mean that private donors are likely to be very particular about where they place their dollars.

We may be lulled into thinking that the flash and glamour of our top track stars means that sports are lucrative businesses. It’s not so. We’re not a rich country and our athletes cannot be raking it in, in general.

Just two weeks ago, the government signed an agreement to pump J$250 million into developing high school and community based sporting facilities. The programme will be funded by the Sports Development Foundation (SDF) which will provide $100 million, and the European Union Sugar Transformation Programme, that will provide another $150 million.

Infrastructure is wanting in many areas. I was lucky enough to get to one of the new facilities outside Kingston, Catherine Hall Sports ComplexScreen Shot 2013-11-18 at 8.07.44 PM, in Montego Bay. A nice stadium, that looked to hold about 10,000 people, designed to host football and athletics events. The country needs several more facilities like this.

Swimming is one of those sports that lies lower than it should given our size and potential. The ASAJ seems a bit sleepy–judged by what it appears to project about the sport, which seems to be very low profile–though credit should be given for the SwimJamaica programme aimed at providing all Jamaicans with opportunities to swim.

Many sides of the story need to be considered. I’ve just been playing in a golf tournament and was struck by the impact and presence of sponsoring enterprises–the private sector dollars made the event happen. The Jamaican Golf Association (JGA) was present but largely invisible to the public.justbetsprings That may well reflect their importance in getting the event up and running, but they are there to build and support the sport and its players. Why is the JGA so much in the shadows?

I need to read about the various sporting structures and talk more to those involved. Plenty to do in Jamaica, as usual.

Author: Dennis G Jones (aka 'The Grasshopper')

Retired International Monetary Fund economist. My blog is for organizing my ideas and thoughts about a range of topics. I was born in Jamaica, but spent 30 years being educated, living, and working in the UK. I lived in the USA for two decades, and worked and travelled abroad, extensively, throughout my careers and for pleasure. My views have a wide international perspective. Father of 3 girls. Also, married to an economist. :)