Shamfa finds $200k for Cayman Islands trip

THE Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs has come to the assistance of the beleaguered TT men’s rugby team, requesting $200,000 from the Ministry of Finance to fund the national team’s trip to the Cayman Islands. But is it too late? The TT rugby men were originally supposed to play the Cayman Islands tomorrow in the Rugby Americas North (RAN) Men’s 15s Tournament, but owing to a lack of funds, the team was unable to make the trip. Now that funding has been approved, they are hoping RAN will withdraw their threat to throw TT out of the tournament and instead give some leeway and postpone the match until July 14 or 21.

TT have been in top form during the tournament, winning both of their matches in the championship division with two strong second half performances. The local ruggermen defeated Bermuda 27-24 at St Anthony’s College Ground last month, before getting past USA South 34-33 at St Mary’s College Ground on Saturday.

Minister of Sport and Youth Affairs Shamfa Cudjoe said she has committed to helping the rugby team and has asked the Ministry of Finance for $200,000.

“That is the commitment that we would have made and once we receive the funding, we would go ahead and cut the cheque,” she said.

Cudjoe said because of the economic situation facing the country, funding sporting organisations continues to be a problem.

The Sports Minister urged local sporting bodies to do their financial audits on time and try to get sponsorship from corporate TT too. “I encourage sporting bodies to ensure their financial (records are up-to-date) and examine other means of accessing funding because funding really is a challenge right now. Seek corporate sponsors,” she advised.

Cudjoe said there are rules when it comes to funding, but the ministry tries to facilitate athletes and teams whenever possible.

“Whilst you have your rules, you also have to try to be compassionate. It can’t be cut and dried, it can’t be a template, it cannot be one size fits all. Once you are able to find necessary funding to assist, my position is to try in the best way possible,” she said.

Colin Peters, president of the TT Rugby Federation Union (TTRFU), said he is grateful to the Ministry of Sport for the support, as he thought the team had no chance of going to the Cayman Islands.

“I commend the effort of the minister and the ministry, because at one time we thought we were down in the doldrums and had no hope,” Peters said.

“I must commend them for reopening the talks on the matter, because SporTT (Sport Company of TT) said they did not have any money. We went to the Ministry of Sport and they reopened the discussion. They have been very co-operative and the minister said they have to go to the Ministry of Finance, so we just waiting on that now.”

RAN has informed the TTRFU they may strip TT of their points if they are unable to play against Cayman Islands tomorrow. Peters said the TTRFU has written RAN, saying the national rugby team should get the funds and asking for the match to be postponed. “(The letter to RAN said) we have the funds available, are willing to play the game and we are willing to set a date.”