On Target
January 5, 2018
NSC: Between a rock and a hard place

The National Sports Council (NSC), which has the mandate of supervision and administration of most of the playing fields and hard courts across St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), is increasingly being put under the microscope.

Greater scrutiny of the operations of the NSC’s operations have come as there is a greater demand for the use of such facilities; hence, any slip-ups in standards would be made public.

We are also living in a time when the demands and commensurate upkeeps are negated by the lack of finances all round.

And, the NSC, an arm of government, adds other restrictive and prohibitive dimensions to the equation.

These, when bundled, have led to a juggle for the maintenance of the facilities, with much focus beaming to the premier facility – the Arnos Vale Sports Complex.

Apart from being the best sporting facility the country possesses, it is also the most demanding to upkeep at a more than acceptable standard.

The NSC does not have a steady income stream, its financial umbilical cord being the monthly subventions from the National Lotteries Authority (NLA), which initially was primarily for the support of sports and culture.

Other incomes, though not sustained, are realized from rentals of some of the facilities from national sporting associations for the hosting of local and the few and far between regional and international tournaments, with again the Arnos Vale Sports Complex mostly the main target venue.

As a consequence, functions of religious organizations and other cultural activities are sometimes given precedence over national sporting competitions, as the NSC has to find means of getting revenue and generating its own funding.

Unfortunately, some of these non-sporting events sometimes leave the outfield scarred and other amenities with some accelerated deterioration, thus placing the NSC in a dilemma, as we say in local parlance, “The dance can’t pay for the lights.”

Also, unlike other premier sporting facilities across the region, the Arnos Vale Playing Field is still in the main a “free for all”, as persons can walk in and have their form of recreation, without being harassed or made to pay a fee for its use.

But the woes of the NSC could be blamed on the fundamental operations of that statutory body from the outset.

Even with the extensive upgrade done to the Arnos Vale Sports Complex ahead of Cricket World Cup 2007, it was agreed then that minimal user fees would be tariffed and enforced, but which have not come to full bearing.

Everyone here is aware of the current political climate; hence, any attempt to persistently enforce any user fees for the playing facilities would be met with opposition from the said policy makers, i.e. the sitting politicians.

So, the NSC has found itself between a rock and a hard place.

Having already bitten off more than it can chew, it is time that the NSC start off-loading some of its baggage.

But among the changes, should not be the cutting of the lower end of its staff, as we know the economic and social implications that would accrue if this is done.

Therefore, as a possible starting point though, the NSC must again grade its facilities and have only direct control over a few, with management committees set up to administer the second and third tier ones.

This would allow the NSC to pay greater attention to the best playing fields and hard courts under its jurisdiction, more so, the Arnos Vale Sports Complex.

Another possible decision is the leasing of some of facilities to some creditable entities, similar to the arrangement between the Government and the St Vincent and the Grenadines Football Federation with the Brighton Playing Field.

Changes are inevitable, as at present those systems that are in place have outlived their usefulness in scope and policy.

Whatever is done though, must be done in keeping with maintaining and enhancing relationships with the various communities in which these sporting facilities are lodged.