Sports need reforms for new millennium

Stabroek News
December 15, 1999

Sports plays a big part in the developed world today. It is a multi-billion dollar industry where professional athletes receive lucrative sums of money to compete in leagues broadcast by television networks that pay large sums to purchase the exclusive rights to broadcast the competitions.

Vast sums of money are also generated by events such as the World Cup football competition and the Summer Olympics - held every four years - mainly through television coverage and sponsorship.

Countries like the United States of America, Australia, Great Britain and China place great emphasis on the development of sports facilities and the achievements of their athletes.

In other countries government support for athletes is well organised ranging from training support to financial support and including incentives for achievements such as winning a major competition.

Not so in Guyana. The sports scenario here is still in the embryonic stage, but unlike the embryo, it is very disorganised.

The present sports structure in Guyana is in urgent need of revamping if we are to compete successfully at games such as the Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Pan Am, and the Olympics in 2004.

In order for Guyana to become a superpower in sports in the Caribbean in the new millennium radical reforms are needed.

These reforms should be initiated by government (the Ministry of Sports) and should stem from discussions with a tri-partite body, the National Sports Commission (NSC), the Guyana Olympic Association (GOA) and the national associations, the main regulatory bodies for sports in Guyana.


For the new millennium government needs to become more aware of the importance and benefits of sports to society and allocate funds accordingly.

They must also have a sports policy which would entail decisions on (a) the erection of facilities, (b) the sending of teams abroad, (c) having organised sports in the school system, (d) developmental sports programmes for the regions and (e) a five-year development plan for five sports disciplines excluding cricket.

National Associations

Some of the national associations have not been functioning in the best interest of the sport they govern and the athletes under their command.

One of the reasons for this is because the administrators are voluntary workers with sometimes other more important commitments.

One of the long term changes that must be effected if Guyana is to become a Caribbean power in sports is to make the successful transition from voluntary sports administrators to paid ones.

At present administrators are not paid for the service they provide and herein lies the problem.

Meetings, so important to the smooth and effective running of the organisation, sometimes take second place to other engagements.

The result is an association that, at the end of the year, has not performed to its optimum, whose accounts are not in order and one where the athletes are alienated from the administrators.

Another problem is that some presidents of national associations run for office to fulfill their own agendas and ambitions instead of trying to uplift the standard of the discipline they were elected to head.

Some associations are also guilty of allowing pettiness to take precedence over more important matters to the detriment of the sport.

Other administrators seem to lack the necessary vision to move the sport forward or achieve any progress whatsoever.

One association that must be commended, however, is the Guyana Football Federation (GFF). Despite its long running internal disputes, the GFF has managed to acquire an office and is in the process of acquiring a paid secretary.

The other associations should try to follow this trend.

Club structure

The present sports club structure in Guyana today is not encouraging. Associations derive their membership from clubs but have done little to promote the formation of new clubs.

Many clubs have lost the rigid discipline of yesteryear and it is not uncommon to find club members begging for donations in the streets in an attempt to attend international events abroad.

Clubs should be encouraged to operate in a business manner since a strong financial base is a pre-requisite for a successful club.

Professional athletes

With the high cost of equipment and the fact that amateur sportsmen and women seem to be going out the window with those outdated computers, a move towards professionalism in sports is a must.

Football leagues and other tournaments must in some way reflect the move towards a semi-professional nature.


The huge amount of sponsorship received by the Kashif and Shanghai tournament organisers gives lie to the belief that only a few companies sponsor sports activities and should be an encouragement for associations who can see what proper planning and a marketable product can achieve.

Lagging behind

The competition in sports in the Caribbean is getting higher and higher.

A recent example. Dexter St Louis who plays semi-professional table tennis for Cam Bordeaux in the leagues in France was not good enough to retain his Caribbean men's singles table tennis crown he won last year in Trinidad. He was beaten by Cuban Francisco Arado 19-21, 19-21, 12-21 at the recent championships in Colombia.

While other countries in the Caribbean continue to make strides sports in Guyana continues to lag behind.

We do not have an Ato Boldon, a Dwight Yorke or a Merlene Ottey, our boxers are yet to win a World title or an Olympic gold medal and our footballers cannot hold their heads up in the region much less emulate Jamaica's `Reggae Boyz'.

This is because we have made little if any changes to the sports structure we inherited from our colonial masters which coupled with inadequate facilites churns out athletes that cannot compete on an even keel with others in the region.

The Caribbean is not waiting on us to catch up, rather it is running full speed ahead with development of modern facilities and improved opportunities for its sportsmen and women.

As the Christmas season approaches, those tasked with the responsibility of chartering the course for our sportsmen and women in the new millennium should try their utmost to formulate sound principles geared to engineer some growth in the sports industry.

If not the mediocrity that permeates the performances of our sportsmen and women will continue.

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Guyana: Land of Six Peoples