While Minister of Finance Colm Imbert didn’t spend too much time on Sport during his budget presentation on Monday, he did provide some encouragement and optimism for national sporting organisations (NSOs) as they look forward to getting back on the field over the next 12 months.
Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC) president Brian Lewis saw a lot of opportunities for NSOs in the budget, stating: “The next year for sport it’s about restarting, getting people active again, retooling the sporting bodies, and getting the country active again.”
Meanwhile, T&T Cricket Board (TTCB) president Azim Bassarath noted that the announcement of the rehabilitation works on the various sporting facilities will help to bring people back out when restrictions on team sports are eventually removed.
Looking at the glass as half-filled, Lewis said that given that the Covid-19 restrictions have shut down sport, NSOs will have to expend energy and focus on rebuilding sport and the question will be “How do we restart, rebuild, re-imagine?”
“With sports having been brought to a standstill, over the next year it is about getting sport restarted and retooling the NSOs,” he added. Lewis is encouraging young sportsmen and women and entrepreneurs to pay close attention to some of the measures that would support the establishment of small business enterprises that can provide goods and services to the sports services sector.
He said the sports services sector is one of the largest sectors of the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME) and is something sports entrepreneurs can look closely at given the “persistent surplus on the services account of the balance of payments.”
He also noted that the emphasis on Sport Tourism also presents opportunities for sporting services and that Sport Medicine can also be an area of opportunity with the Couva Teaching Hospital.
“Mention was made of the Couva Hospital as a training centre for Medical Tourism. There is also an opportunity there for the Couva Teaching Hospital and UWI to focus some attention on Sport Medicine and Sport Physiologists and Sport Nutritionist as part of the medical tourism concept, especially with the proximity of the Couva Hospital to the Couva sports hub which includes the Swimming Centre, Velodrome and Home of Football and Ato Boldon Stadium,” Lewis noted.
“With equipment and aides for the differently-abled now VAT and Duty-free, it also can assist the Paralympics association and the Special Olympics in terms of rehab of sports men and women. We also have the duty and Vat free elements as it relates to technology that allows NSOs to upgrade their technology equipment,” he continued.
“I always try to look at the glass half-filled as there are opportunities in every challenge, problem or adversity. Having a growth mindset rather than a fixed mindset is essential,” Lewis concluded.
Meanwhile, Imbert mentioned the possibility of returning to the field and the stands next year and Bassarath was pleased to hear that sporting facilities were being rehabilitated.
“What I am happy about is that some work has been done on sporting facilities and as a sports administrator I am very happy that sporting facilities are being attended to. It has been a perennial problem where facilities were not being maintained. I think it is a move in the right direction and of course there is a lot more to be done in terms of improving the sporting facilities across the country,” said Bassarath.
“I think the Prime Minister said they will be looking at opening back up sports, so definitely it is an indication that sports could resume shortly. Also, in respect to the stadia and facilities, if we have quality stadia and facilities, definitely you will get more people coming into sports and you are going to see a big improvement in the performance of our athletes in the various capacities,” Bassarath added.
“If there are quality facilities, you will get people coming back out in droves because they will want to be around clean stadia which will be a neat, encouraging and healthy environment to be around. Whether it is a stadium of normal facilities, once there are improvements to the sporting area, you will have people wanting to come out and train and that will help in assisting the athletes to reach their top form and to bring people back out to play,” he concluded.
In his budget presentation, Imbert said that Minister of Sport Shamfa Cudjoe will go into more details about the plans for sports during the budget debate.