Wednesday, Oct 18, 2017
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Sports Minister Pintard has opportunity to direct balance of govt spending

Last Wednesday in the House of Assembly, Minister of Finance K. Peter Turnquest presented many compelling figures to the nation. He took listeners down a scary path and made it clear that his job in leading the way for the country to put its financial house in order, will be an extremely tough one.

One of the bills that was paid in June, concerned the World Relays. The amount was $11.2 million. The figure will no doubt bring about a great debate within the national sports fraternity.

Was it worth it for a country, struggling financially, to put out such an enormous amount with very little revenue return in comparison?

I pointed out many times in this space, the fact that The Bahamas, through the three International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Relays hosted here (2014, 2015, 2017), has been a financial sweet spot for the universal parent body for track and field. I doubt The Bahamas got any percentage at all of the television rights. I have been informed that approximately $20 million were shelled out by the government of The Bahamas for the inaugural world relays. That figure dropped to around a net loss of $2 million for the second edition of the world relays and then of course there is the $11.2 million the finance minister disclosed last week.

The sports host reputation of The Bahamas has been greatly enhanced by the world relays, but there was always the nagging concern about profit shares. The previous government, through the sports ministry, concentrated on landing the mega international events. It is now up to the present administration to ensure that hosting is accompanied by a profit. This must be the way.

Sports Minister Michael Pintard has the opportunity to really begin crafting a rather nice legacy. If he can steer the process whereby The Bahamas shows a profit from hosting the 2019 IAAF World Relays, he would have succeeded in upgrading what had come before. Everything else is in place. The organizational mechanism is on point. The template is defined and Bahamian personnel are now well-versed in coordinating the relays to the satisfaction of the IAAF.

With Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis directing a national tightening of budgets in various government agencies, the spending for events such as the 2019 IAAF World Relays and the CARIFTA Games, coming up in 2018, must be circumspect. We must be cautious in advancing sports funding. Whatever funding that is available, must be maximized.

I ask a question, however.

Would it have been better for the $11.2 million Minister Turnquest informed of, to have been spent on national sports development throughout the country? That the three world relays events, and the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup boosted the image of the country, is not in doubt. In fact, perhaps the sports outreach was the most obvious strong point of the previous government.

Going forward though there ought to be full recognition that the Bahamas Sports Brand has value. The IAAF and FIFA would not be associated with it, otherwise. So, let’s share the largesse.

The country should benefit from the television rights, to some degree, of all international events hosted here. If that happens, there would be a net profit, on every occasion.

That’s my view.

• To respond to this column, kindly contact Fred Sturrup at sturrup1504@gmail.com or on WhatsApp at 727-6363.

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