In the wake of the cascade of cancellations, postponements and aspirations that have been put on hold in the sporting arena with the COVID-19 pandemic, some well-placed professionals in the field say the unexpected downtime must be used to go back to review and redefine sport mandates across the region.
Dean of the Faculty of Sport at The University of the West Indies (UWI) Dr Akshai Mansingh, speaking during a forum recently, dubbed ‘Sport after COVID-19’, said the pandemic had bluntly exposed the essential role that sport plays in the life of the region.
“When the lockdown started many of us figured we would ride it out and go back to sport as normal. Of course we don’t know when normal is going to be…what we realise is that sport affects the livelihood and psyche of everybody in the region and probably the entire world. The livelihood not just of athletes but of those associated with the athletes like coaches, support staff, journalists and also the vendors on the grounds, our spectators. It is not only affecting everybody in terms of livelihood, but also the psyche of not only the athletes, but also of the sport fans who’ve suddenly found a void in their lives and this has led to in many cases to a lot of social repercussions,” Mansingh, who chaired the forum, posited.
Kervin Jean, head of the Open campus Academy of Sport, who has written sport policies for several Caribbean governments, in commenting on the issue, said the virtual standstill has forced administrators to see sport differently “whether or not they choose to.
“I think it has somewhat of a dual impact in terms of a negative and a positive. In sport what we have on a day-to-day basis, the operations kind of combat the administrative side of sport because sport does not stop. What you normally have is a constant to and fro in terms of persons trying to get ready for the next competition… the next what have you. With this current COVID-19 what it does is that it actually gives us a chance to go back to the drawing board. The chance to actually review our operations and identify what is working, what is not working and what we need to do to conduct sport in this current environment and post this environment,” he noted.
“On the negative side, operations are affected. However, it does give us the time to deal with the administrative aspects of sport, the things that we don’t pay attention to on a regular basis in terms of our policy alignment with our operations, our strategic planning, our annual operations so it actually gives us the opportunity to go back to the drawing board and redefining how we see sport, how we implement and how we operate our sporting organisations and how we cater for the stakeholders,” Jean said further.
Noting that sport has been treated like “a bad stepchild” by regional governments, Jean said: “I think right now we will have to face dire consequences moving forward because in any economic decline, sport is one of the first industries to suffer but on the backdrop of that you have a situation where it’s becoming more apparent the economic significance of sport and the importance of sport to the mental well-being of the population as well as their health. So yes, I think we will see some decreases in terms of funding but I think also on the backdrop of that there is another facet where persons realise the importance sport plays in terms of maintaining a healthy and active society”.
Meanwhile, former cricketer now turned commentator, Darren Ganga, said how players in the discipline emerged at the end of the pandemic would depend on the support systems in place.
“We see across the globe where this has affected some countries more than others. We are lucky in the Caribbean that when you compare what has happened here as against in the United Kingdom or the United States or even Spain and Italy, we could say that we are very fortunate. I think we will also have a lot of persons who will continue to speculate, there will be a phased approach towards getting back to some semblance of normalcy,” Ganga noted.
There are, however, many challenging uncertainties on the fiscal side he pointed out.
“From a sport perspective and sporting events you would see that we have had loads of cancellations, postponements and so forth. But I also think that from a revenue side you would see that a lot of people right now are worried about the investments that they have made and that’s across disciplines. We have had some leagues that are halfway through and have not been able to complete, we have had a lot of contracts in terms of broadcasting contracts, media rights contracts which are still up in the air. Production companies and television companies would have had contracts to be fulfilled and right now they are unsure as to whether these contracts would be realised,” Ganga said.
In the meantime, he said athletes who could find themselves frustrated because of the current situation should “continue to set themselves goals.
“Every single athlete, whether you are elite or intermediary, you must set goals. You must continue to find a way of pushing that standard forward. So if you are an athlete and you just sit down and wait for this to pass without bringing some kind of direction to how you use your time on a daily basis, you will find that at the end of this entire process you might be less of an athlete than when you started this process,” he stated.
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