Minister of Sports Stephen Lashley has dismissed recent media comments attributed to the president of the Barbados Hockey Federation, David Rouse, referring to them as “ill-advised and most unfortunate” and not truly reflecting the facts about the current predicament in which the federation finds itself.
A newspaper article dated Monday, August 25, alleged that the Government was not taking sports tourism seriously by not replacing the federation’s hockey astroturf at the Garfield Sobers Sports Complex and not providing assistance to national sporting organisations.
Minister Lashley said he had indeed responded to requests by the federation to meet in order to discuss the matter and out of those meetings had come pledges by the Barbados Olympic Association (BOA), the National Sports Council and the Tourism Development Corporation to provide some financial assistance to the project.
In addition, he disclosed that he was aware of serious pledges of assistance from at least two overseas donors, but the condition attached had been that the BOA would take over management of the facility, as they were not comfortable with the Hockey Federation’s capacity in this area.
According to the Minister, the issue of the replacement of the hockey astroturf was not in question, but the BDS$1.5 million identified by the federation as being needed to not only replace the turf, but to make major infrastructural improvement to the overall facility which would need to be sourced. He said a point of discussion had also been whether a sand filled field, which was half the cost of the water based field, should not be pursued.
Noting that he had rejected what he called the unsubstantiated notion by the Hockey Federation president that the Government was not supporting sporting associations or Sports Tourism, Lashley said this was totally erroneous, and that the apparent neglect of the AstroTurf must fall squarely at the feet of the hockey federation.
“In 1996, the Wildey Hockey Centre was opened with a water-based turf that had an estimated 10-year lifespan. This turf has been used from that time until now, well beyond its expected useful life. The federation should have had a proper maintenance plan in place which would have called for the replacement of the turf since 2006, two years before this government came to office. Why is the federation president now suddenly making unjustified accusations against the Government in this regard?” the Minister queried.
The Minister said that between 2009 and 2011, the hockey federation had received financial assistance from the National Sports Council to the tune of $110,000.00. He said this was notwithstanding the fact that the federation had repeatedly failed to meet the requirements for funding by being delinquent in the submission of mandatory audited financial statements on an annual basis. He further disclosed that the hockey federation had only in November 2013 submitted audited financial statements for the years 2006, 2007 and 2008 to the National Sports Council, and this tardiness led to a decision being made in 2011 to discontinue funding to the federation, pending the receipt of the financial statements.
In addition, Lashley stated, in its support of sports tourism, the Government had assisted with various infrastructure through the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Youth, the Barbados Tourism Authority and the Tourism Development Corporation.
He noted that numerous sporting organisations and athletes had received sustained assistance over the financial years that his Government was in office. In 2008/09, $547,500 was provided to support elite and emerging athletes. In 2009/10, $487,000 was provided to support 28 such athletes. In 2010/11, $197,175 was provided to support 48 such athletes, while for 2011/12 $540,950 was provided to support 27 such athletes. For 2012/13, the National Sports Council also provided $417,309.43 in special grants to 25 national associations to assist them with various activities. And to date, for 2014/15, $368,823.40 in special grants to 13 national associations and Ronald “Suki” King.
Pointing out that this level of financial support and the infrastructural support provided by Government would have assisted national sporting associations in many of their sports tourism ventures, the Minister indicated that this clearly demonstrated that the impression which the hockey federation president was seeking to convey could not be borne out by the facts.
Lashley said he remained supportive of the need to replace the hockey astroturf, but felt that the hockey federation president had taken a preemptive strike against the Government which fell flat once the facts were taken into account.