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August 04, 2020

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No new sporting facilities will be constructed during this term of the Keith Rowley-administration sports minister Darryl Smith has said.

Speaking at the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC) inaugural Sports Marketing and Business of Sport Conference held at the Hyatt Regency Trinidad, Dock Road, Port-of-Spain, with the theme Towards Economic Growth and Diversification–T&T Sport Rising to the Challenge, he said priority, however, would be given to the completion of major projects, which have already started.

The National Tennis Centre, the National Aquatic Centre, the Brian Lara Stadium and the Cycling Velodrome were major projects started under the Patrick Manning-led PNM administration that were yet to be completed.

“I am cool with passing through this five-year term and not building anything, finishing what we have, maintaining what we have and let the development fund pump into the young people of T&T,” he said.

The minister continued, “We have to move forward with one plan to put T&T on the map. Even the national sporting centres, the planning in terms of programmes.

“There is no way we going to full up that cycling track every weekend. There is no way we going have that (National) Tennis Centre filled to capacity every weekend. We know that. Just like the other stadias that we have now. And that is the problem. Every politician that comes in, because there is no data to guide them, infrastructure and development is the way forward to leave a legacy: ‘I build that!’”

Smith also addressed the issues related to multiple government ministries duplicating the role of sport ministry, which possessed the core competency in this field and declared that practice was at an end.

The minister said: “I was blown away when I met with the minister of education and the minister of culture to hear they also have sporting departments and sporting bodies doing the same thing we (are) doing and we have never met. There are people in all different sections, doing and fighting for the same thing. Why don’t we pool our resources so we could propel and do four or five things?

Smith added: “That is something we have been working on. Minister (of Education) Garcia and I have been having fantastic discussions so far, not only with UTT, with UWI and the primary and secondary schools, because benchmarking is something the chairman (SporTT) and I are trying to do. And so far, what we’ve been seeing are the models in terms of development in Australia, in Cuba and to our colleagues in Jamaica are obviously doing something right.”

But the absence of quality data, he lamented, remained the ministry’s biggest bugbear.

The TTOC initiative generated wide-spread support from national sporting organisations and sponsors representative and feature presentations from Jason Julien, deputy CEO for business generation at majority state owned bank First Citizens, Michael Phillip, chairman of the Sport Company of T&T (SporTT) former government ministry Conrad Enill and Racquel Moses, president at InvesTT.

TTOC president Brian Lewis, in his welcome remarks underscored the need for national governing bodies “to stop depending on state financing. There is a big wide world out there that we need to tap into. How do we make sport in Trinidad attractive to investors?"

Meanwhile, Ephraim Serrette, president of the National Association of Athletic Administration (NAAA) cited the absence of policy in sport and said: “In T&T we tend to just look at the social aspect of sport. We don't look at the economic aspect. The Global Sport Industry, however, is worth an estimated $500-600 billion USD, which is approximately 1.5 per cent of Global GDP.”

Like Smith, Serrette pointed to the data dilemma which impaired the innate willingness of administrators to succeed.