The Honourable Shamfa Cudjoe delivers remarks at the NGB Knowledge Series Media Launch
Media Launch- NGB Knowledge Workshop Series
Wednesday 10 February 2021
Bamboo Room, National Cycling Centre, Couva
Remarks by the Honourable Shamfa Cudjoe – Minister of Sport and Community Development
Mr. Douglas Camacho, Chairman, the Sport Company of Trinidad and Tobago Limited (SporTT),
Mr. Jason Williams, CEO, SporTT,
Mr. Kairon Serette – Manager, Business Development Unit, SporTT
Mr. Justin Latapy George, Head of the Sport Development Unit (SDU), SporTT (TBC)
Other members of staff at SporTT,
Ms. Vashti Guyadeen – CEO, Trinidad and Tobago Coalition of Service Industries
Mr. Regan Asgarali, Controller, Intellectual Property Office,
Mr. Gabre Mc Tair, Director of Physical Education and Sport, Ministry of Sport and Community Development, and other staff of the Ministry,
Representatives of the National Governing Bodies,
Members of the media,
Ladies and gentlemen,
I wish to commend SPorTT, the Ministry’s implementation body, for making this project possible; for always going above and beyond the call of duty to support our stakeholders, strengthen our network and to improve our service and delivery to the sporting fraternity.
I wish to also salute the Trinidad and Tobago Intellectual Property Office and the Trinidad and Tobago Coalition of Industries Services for your partnership and support over the years as we work together to enhance the economic value of sport, and to provide opportunities for athletes and sporting bodies to remain robust, relevant, attractive, competitive and dynamic in this industry. When I joined the Ministry of Sport in 2018, I was invited to speak at a forum held by SporTT with the Trinidad and Tobago Intellectual Property Office. I must say that I was very impressed by the quality of work they have been doing, and coming from an international trade background dealing with trading services and trade intellectual property, I must say that if we put this research to work the way we ought to, we can bring in fortunes for the sporting industry. Therefore, I want to thank you for your partnership which is in the best interest of the sporting fraternity.
The COVID-19 pandemic has posed many challenges for the sporting fraternity throughout the entire world. Sporting activities have been placed on hold, some cancelled, and it has been somewhat paralysing for some areas of the sporting sector. No one saw this coming; I think not even the most advanced economies or the most advanced sporting ecosystems really saw the impact that this COVID 19 pandemic will bring to us. When we were first experiencing this last year, we were hoping that this will be for a short while and we will be able to bounce back quickly. But, here we are, one year later, still grappling with COVID-19. We have to learn as a country, within our communities, and as a sporting fraternity to live through it and not just survive COVID-19, but to thrive and provide opportunities for the people we serve, especially our athletes. Thus, we have no choice but to do what we have to do.
I think we can look at the glass as half empty or half full. This time or period provides opportunities for us to get back to base; to rethink; to retool. There is no better time for us to look at how we do business and how we conduct the business of sport. I always look at sport as a business. Far too often in our culture, we think of sport as extra-curricular activities or something we do for fun. Sport is science. It is business, and as we say in science, what we put in is what we get out. The investments we make is what we will reap.
This is the time for us to really focus on the business of sport and we at the Ministry of Sport and Community Development and SporTT are planning ahead, getting the infrastructure ready for when it’s ok to play once again, and lending the necessary assistance to our athletes and the sporting fraternity. I am therefore thrilled and optimistic about this Knowledge Series Workshop initiative for National Governing Bodies, and I will add Community Sport Organizations because I would have reached out to SporTT asking them to involve these community-based organizations because we must be truthful and honest and acknowledge the state of play. Not all National Governing Bodies really get down in the communities as they should. Whatever the challenges are, whether it’s the need for technical guidance, building the networks, funding- whatever the challenges may be, I think that there are so many National Governing Bodies that tend to focus on just the elite athletes or high performance athletes. Long term athlete development or holistic development that should happen through sporting bodies means getting down and reaching into the communities. This is where the raw talent is, where the action is, where the energy is alive and well, where we see grit and gut. We have remit over 54 different disciplines from the National Governing Bodies, and there are some that are in the communities more than others. Often times we have athletes who go out on their own to make a significant impact in their communities. For example I saw what Michelle Lee Ahye was doing over the years at Christmas time, getting together with Hasely Crawford to do a sporting camp in the West. I also know what Andre Lewis is doing with sailing out at Maracas. We as a Government stand ready to support these types of initiatives. When it comes to sport in the communities, the Government cannot do this alone. We will continue to offer assistance to NGBs, whether it is financial assistance or technical assistance. I know that some of your parent bodies have athlete development programmes, so I call on you all to get down into the communities and get work done.
These workshops will help the National Governing Bodies to improve your management, your strategic planning, show different opportunities for income generation, how to promote sport tourism, and how to provide better services for your athletes. I am happy that we are partnering with the IPO and the CSI offices so that we can successfully deliver this type of service to our National Governing Bodies. Now we have SporTT extending this service to the community-based organizations because I think they need a lot of guidance and direction. There are persons in the communities who execute these projects and invest their time and talent as a labour of love. It is particularly difficult for them at this time to have the right guidance and direction in terms of keeping young persons involved, keeping meetings, or keeping people active. They are trying to figure out how to continue to operate and develop their sporting discipline during this COVID-19 period. Whilst the NGBs have the support of their parent bodies, we want to ensure that that type of support also gets to the community organizations.
I am therefore thankful to SporTT for getting on board swiftly and expanding the reach of this programme to include these community organizations.
During this time, the Ministry is focused on helping our stakeholders with their management plans and strategic planning, improving their governance and transparency, accountability, education and training to our athletes whether it is the basic training or items that they need. Some athletes for example may need assistance with reading a legal document, how to budget for the long term, how to dress for success, how to speak, how to utilise the media for branding, and how to build partnerships to get the necessary financial assistance. We are therefore working on improving the welfare of our athletes through partnering and networking as we should.
I am pleased to say that we at the Ministry of Sport and Community Development have been receiving complaints from athletes, especially the elite athletes, who indicated that funding is taking a lengthy period to come by, and that the process is not clear enough. Some would have reached out to me via Facebook, IG and WhatsApp, and we got down to the business of reviewing the process to see how we can be of better service to our client. That process is being reviewed and we have made some progress. That process is now being handled by the Grants Unit in the MSCD so now athletes can apply to the office of the Permanent Secretary and the Grants Unit will review. We are working with the TTOC and the NGBs to ensure that you get acknowledgement of you application and a timely response. We are also working with the Ministry of Finance to ensure that the funding comes in a timely manner and that the process is more expeditious and smoother for you. So I wish to thank the TTOC, SporTT, Mr Gabre Mc Tair and his team at the Ministry for getting our process up and running.
With respect to this marriage between Sport and Community Development, I think it is a most a relevant and opportune time for this. Often we focus on the NGBs but this marriage forces us to expand our reach, improve our relationship with the communities, and to truly maximise the full potential of sport to unite people, to build communities, and to provide opportunities for economic development and entrepreneurship. Just last week we distributed over $800,000 in support to elite athletes and community groups. I want to share that this support will mean nothing if it’s not properly managed and if these groups don’t have the right direction and guidance. Therefore I am pleased that SporTT is working with not just the NGBs but also with the community service organizations to build communities and help to improve the lives of our young citizens across the country.
We as the Government are going to continue to do our part and invest in the infrastructure. For instance, we are doing work to improve the infrastructure and services at the Racket Centre to get to a world class standard. We are also enhancing the Aquatic Centre and the home of football. The Government invests hundreds of millions, even billions in sporting infrastructure and it is our business to ensure that we reap some sort of reward or benefit from these investments for the economy and for our athletes. The Government continues to invest in programmes towards the total participation in sport throughout our communities such as the Pink Reign Project which we are now reviewing. Due to COVID-19, we have had to change the implantation of this project. For the Community Sport Programme, we are now aligned with the Community Development Division and we are working with the Best Village Unit to host a Village Olympics where we will journey from community to community and engage in team sports and novelty games to get people up and active; involved in some type of sport. The intention is to turn it into a festival where we focus on different communities. For example, on one day we can have a green market and handicraft and so on where we can showcase the entrepreneurial spirit of the communities. On another day, we can host sport events to strengthen our relationships with communities across Trinidad and Tobago.
The Ministry also has its Sports Calendar, and I want to encourage NGBs and community sport organizations to submit the work you are doing. I found that the submissions form NGBs and sporting bodies was rather low; I’m not sure if it is due to COVID-19 and perhaps groups were unable to meet and submit their plans. Usually, you are called upon to submit your plans in June so that by the time the budget is ready, we can decide on allocations. The feedback has therefore been slow. I know that we are all watching and waiting for this situation to change. We can’t play just yet, but we want to plan in such a way that when we are ready to go to play, we are ready. We as the Government stand by with the necessary funding and we want you to submit your plans, ensuring that you consider COVID-19 protocols. Even if you are not playing, get the necessary capacity building or training in these types of initiatives so that when we come back out to play, we can come back out with a bang.
So to SPorTT, the IPO and the TTCSI, and all stakeholders- the athletes and everyone else, please do your part. I want to salute you. We cannot do this alone. We are in a marriage and we all have to do our part to make this marriage work. Not because it is a trying time and the financial situation is very difficult as the Government grapples with social assistance and those who are unable to work. We must continue to be there for our athletes since they are our ambassadors, responsible for going out there and showing the world our best. We will continue to provide that support and I thank SporTT once again for assisting in carrying the load and for doing a good job. Thanks to the media for carrying our stories and I just want to encourage the NGBS and CSOs not to sleep during this time; do participate in these capacity-building workshops so that when we come back out, we come back out with a bang.
So thank you for coming, thank you for participating and continuing to stand in support and in solidarity with our athletes. As we get ready for Tokyo 2021, we are here for you to provide the necessary assistance. So, ladies and gentlemen, I thank you and may God bless you and our nation.