Read More →
The dust is yet to settle and the clouds are yet to clear. The debate continues to spiral as to whether or not Jamaica’s track and field athletes should get preferential financial help, and if so, how much can we afford to give them, and which athletes should qualify, and how should they qualify? While the search for answers to all those questions continues, I maintain my stance that monetary contributions to mediocre senior athletes is not my preferred strategy, and that some of these athletes with these ‘hard-luck stories’, having got to a certain age and stage, need to ‘man up’, look into themselves and take the tough decision to quietly walk away from the sport. I can appreciate, however, that moving forward, some things need to change. Not least of which is the random and disorganised method used by the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA) in allocating financial help for needy athletes. Misconception One misconception that this ongoing saga has corrected and confirmed is that the JAAA has been and continues to offer significant financial assistance to our athletes. The consensus now, though, is that to continue to disperse funding of the magnitude of $9 million annually without defined systems and structures opens up the JAAA to accusations of favouritism, nepotism and victimisation. The stories are many from athletes claiming to getting different treatment and enjoying different levels of benefits, not based on any set criteria but based on who they know personally, and who they have access to within the organisation. That is the kind of accusation that will always come the way of the JAAA as long as they continue to undertake these disbursements without a transparent structure. Who says, for example, that instead of $9 million, the JAAA is not in position to allocate $15 or $20 million for helping athletes? Who is the JAAA accountable to? Accusations have been rife against the local governing body about the secrecy with regards to the actual dollar-figure amount of the sponsorship that the JAAA has been able to attract over the years, especially with the high profile of the Jamaican athletes in the sport. So no one really knows for sure what they can or cannot afford to do. I was actually astonished on hearing the extent of the assistance that the governing body was able to find in helping needy athletes, in a context of the perennial cries of a lack of funding for key projects such as assembling our juniors for proper training camps ahead of major competition and other developmental activities. An average of over $4 million per year since 2001, increasing year to year, with some $6.5 million already disbursed this year. Certainly going forward, at least an attempt at levelling the proverbial playing field by the JAAA in terms of which athletes get what, how, where and when, is what is required. wilted under pressure The Government has wilted under the pressure and has already committed $40 million to setting up a programme to assist the athletes. While disagreeing with that move in principle, if taxpayers’ money is to be used to help needy athletes, please let it be done on a structured, transparent and equitable basis. The JAAA also needs to fall in line in that regard. Again, I say the revelations made by the airing of this issue have been quite instructive. What is now known significantly that was not known before is the level of assistance that was going the way of the athletes from the local governing body. What we also now significantly know is that the way the funds were being disbursed is rife with imperfections and inviting to wide-ranging questions, and that now needs to change. Over to you, JAAA.