The Bahamas Olympic Committee (BOC) is hoping that the Government of The Bahamas reconsiders the 2020-2021 budget cuts as it relates to sports, as athletes look to qualify for the 2021 Summer Olympic Games and participate in other sports meets.
BOC President Romell “Fish” Knowles said that the sports fraternity cannot afford another budget cut as athletes have an additional year to prepare for the Olympics.
“Our athletes in preparation for the Olympics will have to endure an additional year of preparation and with that comes expenses,” said Knowles. “There are Olympic qualifiers, coaches fees, nutrients, facility usage, travel, accommodations, food and other associated expenses that goes into an athlete’s preparation and on top of that they have to live.”
The athletes’ subvention took a hit of $269,230 this budget period. It was set at $1,346,150 for 2019-2020. For 2020-2021, that figure is at $1,076, 920.
The budget for the National Sports Authority (NSA) last year was at $3.2 million. For the current period, it’s at almost a million dollars less, set at $2,280,000.
“With particular references to facilities, it is my belief that sports and outdoor activities will be the catalyst that will embrace the return to normalcy in people’s lives. The protocols being prescribed by our health officials suggest operating cost will increase due to the frequent sanitizing of sports facilities coupled with their regular maintenance,” Knowles said. “It’s incumbent that the authority continue to promote healthy lifestyles and at the same time create a safe environment at sports facilities.”
Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, Knowles said that athletes faced a lot of challenges such as the postponement of the Olympic Games, lockdowns and closure of sporting facilities. He added that through it all the athletes have adapted very well.
“We are aware of the government’s finances and we empathize with the government,” Knowles said. “However, over the years, sports has carried its fair share of cuts under the pretense that their grants would be restored when the economy improved. Well, over 12 years ago, sporting federations received grants of $80,000 each, $40,000 based on their classification. Today, sporting federations receive $12,500 every six months, some none at all. Let me just say that any financial reduction to athletes and federations will have a significant impact on the quality of representation locally and on the international stage. It stands to reason the more money the government invests in sports the greater the return.”
Knowles stated that athletes and federations cannot endure another cut, saying that they have had significant reductions.
The BOC chief said: “The BOC will continue to agitate for athletes subvention to remain as is; and federation grants to be distributed timely without hesitation.”
The 2019-2020 budget for the BOC was at $50,000. For this period, the budget is $10,000 less, set at $40,000. He said that he has asked Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture to address their concerns.
“We are satisfied that the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture is aware of our dilemma and is addressing our concerns regarding athlete’s subvention, federation grants and the grant to the BOC. We appreciate that the decision lays in the Office of the Prime Minister and Ministry of Finance. [We] have asked the sports ministry to escalate our appeal to the higher component authority,” Knowles said. “We have in fact spoken to some of our athletes; some who are very concerned about the cuts to their subvention, particularly since they are now incurring more expenses not less. One should appreciate that a lot of our athletes live abroad. It is likely the COVID-19 pandemic would have impacted the financial resources of their parents and/or sponsors so it is likely they are having to depend on their subvention more than ever.”
According to Knowles, most of the athletes are at the lower tier of the subvention program which is not enough to cover all of their expenses.
To help those who are not on government’s subvention, the BOC has established an athlete’s welfare commission. The federations will be receiving more information in that regard this week.
Knowles confirmed that the BOC has made an appeal to the government to reconsider budget cuts in sports and they are awaiting a response from the Office of the Prime Minister and/or the Ministry of Finance. Knowles said he fully expects to get this matter amicably resolved in the best interest of the Bahamian athletes.