Following a letter dated February 1, 2010 from the President of the GLTA, Dr. Frank Anthony, Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport, met with a delegation from the GLTA on Friday February 12th, to discuss the issues raised in the letter.
Representing the GLTA at the meeting were Christopher Ram, President; Rawle Sue-Ho, Vice President; and Ms. Grace McCalman, GLTA Executive with responsibility for Junior Development.
Highlighting the issues raised in his letter, the GLTA President first pointed to the marked imbalance in the allocation of national resources dedicated to the various sporting disciplines. He called for a more streamlined approach, as well as equitable financial allocation to be among the primary components of the support architecture for sports generally. In addition, the GLTA President emphasised that sports can make a significant contribution to the economy and development of the nation; that the health and wellness of participating citizens can directly reduce the billions of dollars spent annually on the health budget; that regional and international tournaments can enhance sports tourism; and that participation by the youth can help their academic performance while keeping them off the streets and out of crime.
To this end, the GLTA team made a submission that 1% of the 2010 National Sports Budget of $550 million be allocated to Tennis; the Minister was assured that allocated funds would be used strictly for developmental purposes, and properly accounted for. Noting that the employment of co-ordinators across the country was pivotal to the schools programme and therefore to the future of tennis, the president pleaded with the Minister to fund the salaries of two co-ordinators through an allocation of a minimum of $2 million.
In an effort to emphasise the situation, the GLTA team advised the Minister that at present, the GLTA is only able to finance the employment of one co-ordinator resident and operating in Georgetown, and a few other parts of Region 4; and that this is only after receiving and utilising financial assistance from the International Tennis Federation. The GLTA indicated that: 1) the Association desperately wishes to have a more structured and guaranteed programme in Berbice; and 2) to take the sport to schools in Essequibo, Linden and the hinterland communities. As an indication of the urgency of the needs, it was pointed out that currently Berbice has only a part-time volunteer
The GLTA team noted that tennis in Guyana has survived primarily due to the support of the private sector, some resources from the International Tennis Federation (ITF), and the dedication and commitment of the members of the GLTA. Accordingly, it is appealing for support from the Government, which has been noticeably absent for several years. The team added that such support is clearly vital for tennis to become more than a recreational sport, enjoyed by a limited number of Guyanese; and one representative of a deeper commitment and outreach on a larger scale.
Also, the GLTA took the opportunity to inform the Minister of the programmes to encourage tennis in Primary, Secondary and Multilateral Schools, and clubs across the country. The President noted that junior tennis was now active in thirty schools; one school in Georgetown had become the first school ever to be affiliated to the GLTA. Moreover, the number of Tennis clubs has doubled since October 2009 and February 2010. These, the president added, make the sport more accessible to the wider community.
The Minister responded that while he appreciated the contribution tennis could make to national development, there was absolutely no room in the budget for any contribution to tennis. However, he undertook to arrange a meeting of the Minister of Education, himself and the GLTA to ascertain whether that Ministry could finance the employment of at least one co-ordinator. Should this become a reality, Region 6 would have a full-time co-ordinator.
The GLTA also sought financial assistance from the Ministry to enable the participation of six juniors in the preliminary rounds of the World Junior Tennis Championship to be held in Trinidad and Tobago in early April. The Minister responded that while his Ministry could not afford any cash contribution, it would favourably consider a request to waive the Travel Voucher Tax on the airline tickets, and the Departure Tax for the six members of the team and the accompanying two coaches. The GLTA took the opportunity to invite the Minister to meet the members of the squad at one of the off-court sessions the GLTA has arranged for the players.
For his part, the Minister expressed some surprise about concerns from the GLTA that it is not kept informed of, or involved in, the ongoing extensive rehabilitation works at the Non Pareil facilities which had previously housed the national tennis facilities. The Minister advised the GLTA team that his Ministry was constructing a Racquet Ball Centre, inclusive of two tennis courts, to be used by the public, children from schools in the area, and on a limited basis, the Guyana Lawn Tennis Association.
The GLTA agreed to assist the Ministry in the placement of a tennis coach for the Centre and to make recommendations for the proper administration of the facility when completed.
Along the same lines, the GLTA noted that Guyana was one of only two CARICOM countries without a National Tennis Centre, a requirement for internationally staged tennis tournaments. The Minister advised that he had been approached by a private investor for the development of eight grass courts at the Non Pareil Tennis facility. Responding to the GLTA’s reaction that this was a most unlikely and inadvisable proposition, the Minister threw out a challenge to the GLTA to submit to him a plan for the development of the Tennis Centre. The GLTA welcomed the challenge and advised the Minister that it would treat the preparation of such a plan as a priority.
The two sides also agreed to cooperate in hosting workshops on several sports administration areas: including better governance and financial administration, tournament co-ordination and management, ethics in sports, fund-raising, and the conduct of officials.
The GLTA also reminded the Minister that the life of the National Sports Development Council expired more than two years ago and recommended that its reconstitution should be a priority consideration.
The Minister accepted the invitation by the President to have his Ministry join with the GLTA to develop the sport to return to the era of years gone by when Guyana and Guyanese excelled at the game of Tennis. The GLTA representatives assured the Minister of their availability and willingness to work with his Ministry not only on tennis, but on sports generally.
In closing, the GLTA President (Ram) expressed his team’s satisfaction with the outcome of the meeting, and the Association’s hope that it signals the beginning of a new, constructive, and mutually rewarding relationship between the Ministry and the GLTA.
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