Sports Scope is currently on vacation for the Christmas season and will return in the new year. During this time, The Nassau Guardian will feature a few Sports Scope columns from the past.
How does the national subvention program relate to today’s world’s sports picture?
Circumstances that are likely to severely encroach upon The Bahamas’ sports brand beg that question. Recently, The Bahamas lost the national team services of Grand Bahama native and basketball sensation Jonquel Jones.
She is now on the Bosnian national basketball team.
The 6’ 6” forward/center ventured into South Korea and was the best; shifted the next season to China and captivated that nation’s basketball scene; and all along she continued the rise to stardom in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), by being named an all-star, and winning the league’s most improved and best sixth woman awards.
She is on Team Bosnia now, because that country was able to offer her much more for her awesome talent on the basketball court and also because of her general persona that is infectious. So, should we not recognize the need to immediately take a look at our subvention template? I think so, most definitely.
Not that long ago, I served through an appointment by the Cabinet of The Bahamas, as a consultant to the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture with the subvention program as one of the prime items of responsibility. Sports minister at the time, Neville Wisdom, and former Director of Sports Martin Lundy worked very closely with the late Tommy Robinson, Grafton Ifill Jr. and I, in monitoring the subvention program and addressing certain needs.
The subvention categories of annual payments, then, were: $34,000 (top rated elite athlete); $26,000 (second tier elite athlete); $19,000 (lower level elite athlete); and $12,000 (development athlete, funds to be paid and distributed through respective federations, because of National Collegiate Athletic Association [NCAA] conditions).
It was a workable plan. The structure was appropriate. It enabled our finest athletes to maintain, through conditioning, a standard that allowed them to compete favorably with their world peers; and also, for the younger ones to properly develop.
However, the demands today, to stay on par with the quality athletes from around the world, are much greater.
So, for example, the wonderfully-talented swimmer Joanna Evans, who incidentally also hails from Grand Bahama, should be at the highest subvention level. If she is to ever achieve the heights of the greatest Bahamian swimmer ever over the Olympic finalist and highly decorated Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace, the $12,000 category that I understand Evans to be placed in at the moment, is not appropriate.
Evans has climbed to the top of the Central American and Caribbean (CAC) region. She has the ability to go further, much more so.
It is essential, I submit, that the sports ministry take the subvention program under serious review and make a presentation to the Cabinet of The Bahamas for a financially-upgraded package in line with what can help to give our elite athletes a fair chance against the best of the rest of the world.
We’ve lost Jonquel Jones, at least for the present time. She has national team status with Bosnia now.
The government of The Bahamas should take heed and nip this situation in the bud. I call for a major upgrade of sports allocation from the national budget, and accordingly a revised subvention program.
• To respond to this column, kindly contact Fred Sturrup at e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org or on WhatsApp at (242) 727-6363.