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Rethinking Sport in Jamaica

Remove the S from CHASE… Boost the SDF

KINGSTON – For more than a century there has been a Jamaican athlete that has impressed someone, somewhere across the world.  The early days of cricket tours in and out of the West Indies, international boxing cards, football, netball and host of other sports, served a bit of a signal to the world that Jamaica was and continues to be a big part of any sport conversation. 

Ask any track and field fan, cricket (yes, believe it or not); netball, football, basketball fan and a Jamaican athlete’s name can come up. 

Over time, sport has been funded by private and public means. What has been consistent though, is the first-class performance that has been maintained, sustained and enhanced by the athletes. 

In 1995 the game changed somewhat, the Government of the day approved a plan to start the Sports Development Foundation. The SDF was established as an independent body to contribute to the development of the nation through sports.

With sport emerging (at the time) as a major contributor to the island’s economic activities, there was a thought that sport needed more. The agency in its early days focused on infrastructure and capacity building. The Mona Hockey Field (astro turf); several football fields, National Indoor Sport Centre were among some of the venues that were renovated, upgraded and built from scratch. The capacity building focused on administrative development of officials from at least 40 sporting disciplines. 

As you read along, and you are in the business of sport, you can clearly identify the gaps for a country that has produced so many world-class athletes. So whilethe track and field performances have been outstanding to date, to gain and maintain the competitive edge and move ahead, there needs to be a re-thinking of how sport is: 

  • Funded 
  • Managed 
  • Researched 
  • Marketed 
  • Re-Developed

It is with those five key areas, that my recommendations for Sport for Jamaica going forward include: 

  • Boost the work of the SDF
    • Remove the S from CHASE (they can determine what to do with C-H-A-E
    • Increase the staff numbers to include a:
      • Planner 
      • Researcher 
      • Marketer
      • Developer 

It is clear that Jamaica’s technical talent is at a great level – coaches and athletes continue to break the ceiling of performance. Most of the major sporting events have consistent work being done with their technical staff. 

The next level is needed and in another decade, if we are not careful, we will be chasing dreams in the key areas that will ensure that the next generation has access to the same enabling environment. 

GC Foster, UTECH, UWI and Mico continue to train Sport Officials in education, management and preventative care; but an elite athlete cannot in 2023 & beyond, compete without the support of branding and marketing to take them to the top of their games. 

In redefining how Jamaica as a nation treats this industry, there are also some policy decisions which should be happening simultaneously. SPORT should have its own Ministry.

This is what I envisage the team should look like from the policy and operational side 

  • Ministry of Sport
    • Minister 
    • Minister of State 
    • Permanent Secretary 
    • Director of Sport + 5
  • Sport Development Foundation (agency)
    • Managing Director
      • Directors of Marketing, Research, Finance 
      • Corporate Planner (to deal with bilaterals, administration, academic development, infrastructure
      • Event Manager (incoming and outgoing delegations, permits, venue updates) 

Change is inevitable if we want to be successful. 

The research element of the business cannot be overstated, as it is the data we collect and how we use it to inform our next set of moves on and off the field that will determine our capacity to handle, manage and deliver a world class sporting industry run by those who are capable. 

In the next column, I will pick the team who can and should be asked to deliver on this plan. Until then…


Always a Step Ahead


Schools’ Physical Infrastructure to be assessed for improvement

KINGSTON, June 5 The top ten high schools based on their performances in the annual Inter Secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA) Boys and Girls Championships, will have their physical plants assessed to see what kind of improvements and upgrade can be facilitated.

Minister with responsibility for Sport, Hon Natalie Neita Headley has committed that the Sports Development Foundation (SDF) will be assigned to see how the Government can facilitate the improvements. The Minister, who was making her presentation in the Sectoral Debate on Wednesday, revealed that some research has shown that injuries among elite athletes were as a result of poor surfaces. “If we are to invest in our future, we must focus our attention on providing them with better facilities,” the Minister said.

The Minister lauded the efforts of ISSA, Jamaica Independent Schools Association and the Jamaica Teachers Association all of which have programmes to nurture and develop talent among the younger athletes.

Incentives for the development of sport
The Minister also announced that the recently enacted Charity Organisations (Tax Harmonisation) Act has in place, clear guidelines that will allow sporting bodies and federations to continue to benefit from the waivers through statute. Minister highlighted that “the act has therefore made it easier for organisations to make donations to charitable associations that support the development of sport.”

Section 1 under the Customs Section, states that “Notwithstanding anything to the contrary, no import duty shall be payable upon any article imported into Jamaica or taken out of bond in Jamaica by an approved charitable organisation and shown to the satisfaction of the Commissioner General to be required for the charitable purposes of that organisation.”
The Minister noted that the provisions in the new Act have been expanded to cover all the present and future sporting activities as amateur sport.
“The SDF would be the agency to work with the Commissioner General to ensure that all sporting associations and bodies are vetted and registered as charitable organisations. Stakeholder consultations will commence shortly to ensure that the sporting associations and federations are fully aware how to treat with these new provisions,” the Minister announced.

The Minister was clear on the objective that “the partnership was to ensure that every single child participating in sport at the amateur level will be exposed to proper gear and equipment.”