With quite a number of local sporting federations represented as his audience, Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Mario Bowleg took the time to urge them to become self-sufficient instead of being solely dependent on the government for funding. He was the keynote speaker at a meet and greet event hosted by Bahamas Events and Sports (BES) Management on Saturday at Fusion Superplex.
Bowleg said that the government of The Bahamas simply can’t afford to be to the sole source of funding for federations, adding that they (federations) should find ways to procure funds.
“You cannot solely depend on the government’s purse,” Bowleg said. “We just can’t afford it so we must find ways to find funding to assist the various federations. One thing we want to do is encourage federations to be self-sufficient.
“How can that be done? I am a prime example to teach you that because as the former president of the Bahamas Basketball Federation (BBF), we brought in revenue. We averaged a budget of $350,000 to $400,000 per year and I think track and field averaged that also. The government gave us $20,000 annually. That money could not have gotten all of those national teams out of the country.”
The ‘Summer of Thunder’ basketball showcase where National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) teams come in and play against each other in the offseason, and also against local teams, is the BBF’s primary
Funding has been an issue for federations for quite some time. The issue was brought to light again last week when the reports surfaced that the BBF may be forced to withdraw its senior men’s national basketball team from the FIBA (International Basketball Federation) World Cup 2023 Americas Qualifiers, citing a lack of funding.
Federations currently receive a $20,000 grant annually from the government. It is a figure that Bowleg knows is insufficient and he said he will look at putting a proposal forward to increase that figure.
“In 1991, national federations were receiving $80,000 per year. We are now 31 years later and receiving $20,000 – we have pedaled backwards. It is my mandate to ensure that I increase the grants for federations and those grants will be increased to where it should be – from 31 years ago,” Bowleg said.
Bowleg and his ministry are set to roll out a program to provide incentives to sports such as tennis, golf and swimming if their respective governing bodies could go in the inner cities and give those children an opportunity to be a part of their member clubs free of charge.
“We believe that every federation should establish a program that allows their grants to increase by way of incentives,” Bowleg said. “My ministry will roll a program out soon. We do believe that sports like swimming, tennis and golf that are not played in the inner cities – we are encouraging those federations to go in the inner cities and make the basketball court a tennis court, take the park and hit the golf ball. The kid with no shirt and no shoes will ask you to swing the tennis racket and golf stick and I assure you that we will find our diamonds in the rough.
“I could assure you that if federations go in the inner cities, we will find names that we never heard before come to light and then we will have those diamonds in the rough. I intend, as the minister, to then incentivize an increase of your grant. You will get your grant but if you can come to me and say I find these five kids in Bain Town and take care of the kids and not charge them to go to your clubs, then we will incentivize you. You have to go out and find the best.”
Bowleg stated that the development, movement and upward mobility of sports in The Bahamas is not in the government’s hands but in the hands of the federations. He threw his support behind the federations, but added that they have to help themselves. During the session, federation representatives shared their concerns with the majority citing re-starting their programs, due to the presence of COVID-19, and funding.