December 22, 2006
Connell: It’s an insult to sponsors

Minister of Tourism, Youth and Sports, Glen Beache, got a tongue lashing at the closing ceremony of the Milo OECS Junior Invitational Tennis Championship last Saturday night for allegedly not attending the event.

The verbal onslaught came from President of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Tennis Association Grant Connell who called the no-show “sabotage”.{{more}}

The minister has offered “no comment” while the association’s Vice-president Anthony Boyea, one of the championship’s organizers, told SEARCHLIGHT four days later that the minister was never invited.

“I did not issue an invitation to Mr Beache. I issued an invitation to Nelson Hillocks (Director of Physical Education and Sports),” he said, explaining that he had a conversation with the minister who said that he had a prior engagement to attend the Team Athletics SVG’s Award Ceremony happening the same day and the ministry would therefore be represented by Hillocks.

Speaking at the closing ceremony, Connell was adamant that whatever the reason for Minister Beache not attending he was “extremely disappointed”.

Afterwards Connell told SEARCHLIGHT that “if such a thing happens again, I will resign”.

As far as he was concerned, it was “something personal”.

“If the problem is me, I will step down,” Connell said.

The two have been involved in verbal sparing since Beache was appointed Minister of Sports last December.

Connell was also “extremely disappointed” that Head of the OECS Sports Desk David Peterkin was a “no show”.

“Last year, he made a no show”, Connell recounted and said he planned to express his disgust in writing.

Although Master of Ceremonies at the closing, Boyea, said that Peterkin was attending another engagement, Connell was particularly disgusted with him, as the event was on the OECS official calendar launched and distributed earlier this year.

Connell proposed that the annual sub-regional Under-18 championship be renamed “regional” since the OECS Sports Desk was allegedly showing no interest in it.

“When we get to the point when our sponsors are being insulted by officials not finding the time to attend a closing ceremony, it can affect sponsorship”, he said.

A frustrated Connell said “I am getting to the point not to invite officials”. Connell is fearful that the country could be embarrassed next October, when it hosts the Digicel International Tennis Federation (ITF) Under-18 championship, with an anticipated participation of twenty countries.

“I hold my breath to know if they will show up”, Connell said.

Despite his outrage, the tennis boss believes that “the sport is poised for a take off, now we are on the ITF map”.

The just concluded OECS Junior championships were held at the National Tennis Center at Villa, and had participation from four islands, Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, St Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines.