Sports

Sports cut by more than $5 million

Sports was cut across the board as all major sporting federations and government agencies and programs are expected to suffer a major reduction in funds for the 2020-2021 fiscal year.

As outlined by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance K. Peter Turnquest during the budget presentation in the House of Assembly last Wednesday, and as expected given the current financial situation of the country due to Hurricane Dorian and COVID-19, all major sporting departments and entities will take a hit. Even athletes’ subventions have been reduced for the 2020-2021 fiscal period.

The National Sports Authority (NSA), the major arm of the Government of The Bahamas in charge of the maintenance and upkeep of national sporting facilities, will receive a significant reduction. The budget for the previous period was $3.2 million. For the current period, it’s at almost a million dollars less, set at $2,280,000.

For the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture, the total budget for 2019-2020 was a tad over $24 million. For the current period, it’s a tad under $19 million – a difference of $5 million plus. In the last period, $190,000 was set aside for contribution to international games and major sporting events. For this period, that number is at $152,000.

The 2019-2020 budget for the Bahamas Olympic Committee (BOC) was at $50,000. For this period, the budget is $10,000 less, set at $40,000. Meanwhile, subvention to elite athletes was set at $1,346,150 for 2019-2020. For 2020-2021, that figure is at $1,076, 920.

Going into the postponed 2021 Olympics, and with qualifying meets on the horizon, BOC President Romell Knowles said it’s vital that Bahamian elite athletes receive the proper funding to train and travel to such meets.

“The restriction of competitions, coupled with restrictions to train for the most prestigious sporting event in the world, the Olympics, brings with it a set of abnormal circumstances and expenses for our athletes. In addition to preparation expenses, the mental preparation may be an additional but necessary expense that our athletes may be forced to endure,” said Knowles in a communication sent to the permanent secretary and director of sports in the ministry. “In this regard, we respectfully ask that you escalate our request for consideration to delay any and all reduction to elite athletes subvention who are in preparation for the Tokyo Olympic Games. Given these difficult set of circumstances brought on by an abnormal COVID-19 environment, elite athletes may require more financial assistance, not less. In this regard and on behalf of our elite athletes, we request delaying any reduction in subvention, so that our athletes may be better positioned to prepare, qualify and ultimately perform at their optimum at the most prestigious sporting event in the world, the Olympics.”

The Bahamas Anti-Doping Commission (BADC) had a budget of $332,500 for the 2019-2020 period. For the current period, that number is at $266,000.

Major sporting federations will feel the pinch as well. For instance, the budget for the Bahamas Football Association (BFA) for the previous period was $40,000. This period, the budget is at $32,000. Other sporting federations will face similar setbacks.

“Sporting federations find themselves having to provide more assistance in these most difficult times. It is our hope that there are no reductions in federation grants in this Olympic cycle,” said Knowles.

Perhaps the most peculiar allocation on the budget is that of the world relays – an event that has been discontinued on the local athletics calendar in The Bahamas with no indication of a return hosting. The first three editions of the International Association of Athletics Federations’ (IAAF) World Relay Championships, now World Athletics (WA) World Relays, were held in The Bahamas, 2014, 2015 and again in 2017.

The 2019 world relays were initially set for The Bahamas, but the government pulled out of the hosting, and Yokohama, Japan stepped up and hosted the event at the last minute. The 2021 world relays is set for May 1-2, 2021, at Silesian Stadium in Chorzów, Poland.

However, the government has budgeted for that event for the current period with preliminary forecasted estimates for 2022 and 2023. The estimate for the previous year was $95,000, the budget for the current term is $76,000 and the estimate for the following two years is $76,000 for each year.

Hurricane Dorian and the COVID-19 pandemic have certainly taken its toll on the national economy and sports has suffered as a result. Major sporting events worldwide, and local sporting events and seasons here in The Bahamas, have been postponed, cancelled and discontinued because of the presence of the COVID-19 pandemic. Whereas there is some promise of a gradual return of sports, there is no telling when leagues will be up and running fully, with some degree of normalcy.

The country is currently into phase three of its re-opening plan for the national economy. Training has resumed for individual collegiate, elite and professional athletes at national facilities but various leagues and bodies are still a long way from allowing practices in team sports and setting their respective schedules.

During phase four of the re-opening plan, it is expected that teams will be able to engage in group exercises and training under social distancing guidelines.

About 6.5 million people worldwide have been infected with the novel coronavirus, and nearly 400,000 people have died. Here in The Bahamas, 102 people have tested positive and 11 have died.

Meanwhile, up to press time last night, Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Lanisha Rolle and Director of Sports Timothy Munnings couldn’t be reached for comment.

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Sheldon Longley

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.

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