A screeching halt has been brought to the Barbados Defence Force Sports Programme (BDFSP).
After 24 years the programme which has impacted positively on the lives of hundreds of Barbadian sportsmen and women has been abandoned as Government continues to seek ways to tighten its financial belt. The programme started in 1994 under a previous Barbados Labour Party administration. Those sporting disciplines that have flourished under the programme will now have to seek another outlet from September 30.
Barbados TODAY was reliably informed that two days ago the Barbados Defence Force’s Chief of Staff Colonel Glyne Grannum broke the news to those athletes involved in disciplines such as cricket, football, boxing and track and field, among others
“We were told that it was not the army’s decision and that the hierarchy is just acting based on instructions from the Ministry. All the disciplines are practically going to be terminated, and it is not the army that is forcing it upon us, it’s the ministry that made that decision,” said one of those associated with the BDFSP and who spoke on strict condition of anonymity.
The informed source said: “They give us the option to join the army as what we will call a pact, so we can still draw an income. I think most of the guys will take up that offer because of such sudden measures we really and truly still need the income. So, I think that’s the option most of the pioneers will take including myself because I still have my family to feed.”
Just yesterday at the Barbados Olympic Association, Minister of Creative Economy, Culture and Sports John King, during the press conference to announce Barbados’ contingent to the Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires, Argentina, gave assurances that his ministry would do all it could to support Barbadian sportsmen and women.
“Every time you open the news you can see Barbadian sportsmen, somewhere, some part of the world winning medals. This says that in the midst of all the stuff that has been going on, that our sportspersons continue against all the odds to progress. Which means that it is left to the ministry to give you the extra support that you need. I want to tell you this morning that you have that support,” King said then. Efforts to reach him today on this development were unsuccessful up to publication time.
The BDFSP recruits 50 pioneers annually and has produced some of the most talented sportsmen and women in Barbados who have excelled in various disciplines. Among those are cricketers such as former West Indies fast bowler Tino Best, current Windies fast bowler Miguel Cummins, national wicketkeeper Mario Rampersaud, Kemar Stanford and Kevin Walcott.
In football, there are numerous individuals who have passed through the programme and at least six players from the BDFSP are part of the Barbados senior men’s team. Top attacking midfielder Rashad Jules is currently captain of the national team that comprises Raheim Sargeant, Omani Leacock, Ranaldo Bailey and Rashad Smith along with Shane Codrington who is captain of three-time premier league champions BDFSP. The BDFSP has also won several Barbados Football Association knockout titles.
Best, who made his debut for Barbados in 2002, then went on to play a total of 25 Test matches and 26 One Day Internationals for the West Indies team, has posted on his Facebook page: “So after 24 years, the BDFSP is no more government has ended it. I’m absolutely heartbroken.”
One of the affected sportsmen told Barbados TODAY the BDFSP took him off the streets and afforded him an opportunity to represent his country at the highest level and he, therefore, hoped the government would revisit its decision to end what he described as a blessing in his life.
“The sports programme took a lot of us off the street; it is that real. It molded us into disciplined individuals because some of us could be in jail or dead today. The sports programme provided us with an excellent option. And over the years I would not have been in such a good position had it not been for the sports programme. I probably would not have gotten the opportunity to chase my dream, and it is not only me, but it allowed many of us to chase our dreams. It is tough to see such a wonderful programme end just like that, and it is hurting many of us who have passed through and those who are in it now,” he said.
Recently, Barbados Football Association president Randolph Harris stressed that he would not like to see the programme come to an end.
“The BDFSP has more or less been providing the players to prop up the game in Barbados. This is an excellent programme; I would never like to see it finish. Unfortunately, its budget only allows for a certain number of new recruits annually. But I would like to see it expanded for football and continue in the manner that it has gone so far,” Harris said then.
When contacted by Barbados TODAY, coordinator for the sports programme Michael Jules would not confirm nor deny the development. He merely said that it was above his pay grade and only higher authority could speak to the issue.
“Anything like that you would have to go to the higher authority. You have to go higher; I can’t speak to that,” Jules said.