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Tension brewing between ministry and sporting federations

Among repeated calls for the current Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture to meet with the Bahamas Olympic Committee (BOC) apparently falling on deaf ears, the sporting community of The Bahamas got together in unison yesterday and proposed a joint effort in finally settling the many issues and disputes that have been ongoing for a few months.

BOC President Romell “Fish” Knowles said that it is imperative that certain issues are resolved so that the business of sports in the country continue and that sports in themselves move in a progressive and efficient manner.

Among the concerns are the minister’s accreditation during the recently held International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Relays; a meeting with an international federation president without going through the office of the local body for that sport – in particular, with the IAAF while ignoring the presence and function of the Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations (BAAA) at the world relays; challenges of national federations in receiving national grants; concerns that the budget for sports for the fiscal year was chopped significantly – to the tune of millions of dollars; interference with the business of the BAAA via a telephone call; audit review of world relays and CARIFTA accounts; and outstanding funds regarding the 2017 Commonwealth Youth Games (CYG) held in The Bahamas, among others.

A number of sporting federations in the country were represented yesterday. The minister, Lanisha Rolle, is yet to meet with the sporting community on the various concerns, and there is no guarantee that she would heed this latest call. Be that as it may, Knowles said that they remain optimistic in getting a favorable response this time around.

“We have to fix this deteriorating relationship between the department of sports and national federations,” said Knowles yesterday. “We understand that the minister is very new in her role, and the sporting fraternity wishes for her to succeed but there are certain protocol and communications that we have as a sporting community that she should become familiar with and respect. We have reason to ask the minister to reach out to the federations for advice. The BOC stands ready to provide that advice and expertise.”

In an earlier interview, Minister Rolle said that the ministry respects its relationship with the BAAA and all of the sporting federations.

“I am not aware, at my level, of any pressing concern between us,” she said. “If there is, I would say that we are family, and families will always have challenges. It is all about how we manoeuvre through those challenges that will determine our progress. We just have to realize that we have work to do and that it is not about us. It is about the people of The Bahamas and our country’s future.”

Be that as it may, Knowles said that the actions of the minister doesn’t sit well with the sporting community and has to be resolved. He said that it is not so much the minster herself that is the root of the problem, but added that he believes she is receiving bad advice from the people around her.

“I believe that the minister is misinformed and misguided because she is new in her role. We don’t want a head on collision with the minister – we want to sit down with her and be able to resolve these issues,” said Knowles. “I don’t think the minister is going to decline to meet with us. There are just some things that have to be resolved. For instance, it is not normal for a minister to be accredited as a guest of an international federation. Often times, she is accredited as a government minister because there is a special accreditation for them. We are not accustomed to a minister of sports not informing a national federation that they are attending one of the events of their governing body. The minister should contact her national federation, and that would set off a chain of reaction. The national federation would then gladly get her accredited as they should, and the minister would come to understand our world. We go and introduce her to our colleagues around the world and the environment in which we work, but when there is breakdown of proper protocol and expectations, it makes it very difficult. The world would know that the national federation did not accredit their minister and that sends the wrong signal in the international community.”

As it relates to the minister being invited to the world relays and not going through the BAAA, Knowles said that the response from the ministry’s office was simple that she “is not subject to our expectations and protocol.” He said that is very disturbing to say the least.

“We are of the view that the minister is not properly advised and respectfully ask her to seek proper consultation and guidance. There are persons in her ministry who knows better,” said Knowles, who did not identify any particular advisor who may allegedly be giving the minister improper advice.

On another issue, one of the local federations were reportedly advised not to deal directly with their international federation, but instead, seek consul from her and she would in turn reach out to the national federation, he said.

“Again, this is bad advice and we admonish our minister not to follow such advice,” said Knowles. “I don’t believe it’s the minister’s fault herself because sometimes responsibility is passed down. Ministers are political pundits, and in this instance, we believe that she has received bad advice. I am concerned about the relationship, because perhaps there are people telling the minister that she doesn’t need to meet with her national federations – that she doesn’t subscribe to our protocol she is above that. That is unfortunate.”

As it relates to national grants, Knowles said that one of the federations representative was told that the minister was busy, and will get around to approving the grant when time permits.

“That isn’t the response we anticipated,” said Knowles. “We respectfully ask that grants that meet the test of the ministry be issued in a timely manner on a date to be agreed. These federations have to go to meets to prepare for the Olympics and other high-level meets, and when they can’t get their funds that hinders that. Sometimes they don’t get their funds until the meet they are going to is over.

“It is very frustrating for the administrators to go to the minister and be given the run around, for months sometimes. What concerns us is the federations’ repeated visits to the ministry without knowing when they would receive their grants. That puts them in a very difficult situation. We don’t have the resources to fund all of the federations like we would like, but we try to assist as many as we can. These are grants that the federations are accustomed to getting. When you hold back these funds, that immediately impacts these young athletes and it’s disturbing to say the least. These are administrators volunteering their time for the national development of sports and when you disappoint athletes and all the young people in sports, it becomes a national tragedy. I hope they come up with a policy that will assist small federations with getting their funds on a more timely manner. We have to get the money to these athletes.”

Knowles said the BOC will continue to act as a mediator when necessary, and continue to be that body to forge strong relationships between the various departments and entities of sports in the country.

Sheldon Longley

Sports Editor at The Nassau Guardian
Sheldon Longley joined The Nassau Guardian in January 2001 as a sports reporter. He was promoted to sports editor in 2008. Sheldon has an extensive background in sports reporting. He covered three Olympic Games and three world championships, along with multiple smaller regional and local games.
Education: College of The Bahamas, Associates in Accounting

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