On Target
January 18, 2013

Sporting facilities and their upkeep

The issue of the many sporting facilities will always be a talking point in St Vincent and the Grenadines, whether there are sufficient to provide outlets for the display of talents or if those available are maintained to the liking of their users.{{more}}

At present there are 56 hard-courts and 63 playing fields under the control and ownership of the National Sports Council (NSC).

This mandate, though well intended, has outgrown its objective in the present set-up of things. The result is a juggle to keep them in condition that can be deemed acceptable.

Daily, complaints are aired relating to the state of the facilities, their needs and their general wear and tear.

Too, some of the facilities were built at a time when their configuration truly served their purposes, but have now outlived their usefulness.

As well, most sporting facilities have acquired multi-purpose status, being used for cultural festivities, as well as other community activities.

The hard courts, in many instances, are the venues for small goal football — an every growing activity in many communities.

Facing up the facts, situations have evolved and, over time, with the growing demands for resources, the NSC does not have the capacity — human and financial — to maintain all the facilities it oversees.

The NSC, in short, has bitten off more than it can chew.

The result is that greater focus is often given to the facilities that have priority usage and which have substantial investments and assets.

But whilst it is the responsibility of the NSC to ensure that the facilities are in sanitary condition, all blame cannot be placed squarely at the feet of that statutory body.

The users of these facilities are sometimes the architects of the demise in the way in which they treat them.

The facilities are used as dump heaps — car parks, in at least one case.

Sometimes, users’ actions border on vandalism and very little attention is paid to taking care of the amenities installed at the facilities.

In some instances, the actions of some persons have been deliberate in destroying some of the said facilities and their contents.

This sort of thinking leads to the burden being placed in the lap of the state.

And, if the same facilities are abandoned by the authorities and transformed into another area of use, it will be the same residents and other persons who will make a hue and cry and say they are being deprived of a conduit for the development of sporting talents.

Therefore, the time has come for the NSC to re-activate the management committees and let them become partners and share the task of maintenance of the facilities, as each of the facilities has its own peculiarity and concomitantly, require specific attention.

Factually, there is nothing better when people are part owners, as this lends itself to shared responsibility and that sense of ownership.

These management committees should be as broad-based as possible, inclusive of sporting and cultural forerunners, at least one active sportsman or woman, respected persons in the community, and a member of the clergy.

Such diverse selection will help to disabuse people of the notion that the committees are politically appointed, thus enabling a better functioning of the management.

Too, the NSC must leave some level of autonomy to the management committees, as this empowers the members in their overall decision-making duties and their administrative capacity.

Additionally, the NSC should have a further look at some of the playing fields, in terms of the resources channelled to them.

One asks again, why should the NSC expend manpower to cut the grass at places such as the Biabou, Belair and Dauphine playing fields?

A balance must be sought in the very near future to address the issue of the upkeep of our sporting facilities, as it cannot be business as usual with the NSC.

As everyone is aware, the NSC has no income stream — having to depend on government, the National Lotteries Authority, monies received from the hosting of international cricket matches as well as rentals here and there — which are merely bits and pieces.