Government is ubiquitous, but there are certain realms where its participation should be limited to that of providing support. The less governments involve themselves in sport, the better.
Based on this philosophy, there is really no need for a national sports policy. There is no need either for a national cultural policy. Governments should limit its roles in these two areas, because there is the danger of intrusion into sports administration, as is now evident by the call for government to move from having a national sports policy to having a National Sports Act.
Government interference in sport in Guyana has led to sinister plots as seen in the attempt by the PPPC administration to seize control of the Guyana Cricket Board, as part of a wider plot to take control of West Indies cricket as an investment source. That plot has been resisted by the Guyana Cricket Board, but a great deal of damage was done in the process including government seizing assets, via a court order, of the Board.
The end product of the PPPC’s attempt to control cricket was the enactment of a Cricket Bill, a Bill which allows for government interference in sports administration. This is one of the dangers of having a National Sports Bill. This will subject the sports associations to government control and regulation. This goes against the policy of international sporting associations which prohibit government regulation of sporting associations.
FIFA, the governing body for football, has very stringent rules against political interference in sporting associations. FIFA has suspended membership and sounded warnings to governments over what FIFA deemed political meddling in the work of football associations.
The International Cricket Council (ICC) has similar provisions in is Charter and has found itself having to take action when governments have tried to flex their muscles against cricket associations. A few years ago, there was a problem which emerged when the South African government tried to block sporting associations from bidding for international tournaments. At present, there are problems in Sri Lankan cricket and the ICC has expressed concern over political interference in cricket in that country.
Guyana is going to face sanctions should the government try to regulate sport. Instead of helping our athletes, this will lead to them being barred from international sporting participation.
Sport, like the media, must be self-regulated. The media will never allow itself to be regulated by any media law. Sports associations should be the same. There is no need for governments to regulate sport. This is not how international sports federations operate.
The APNU+AFC government has not indicated any intention to pass a Sports Bill. It has prepared a draft National Sports Policy which does not call for a Sports Bill, but the danger has always been that governments get too ambitious when they try to involve themselves too much in sport administration.
The draft National Sports Policy is a poorly written, poorly articulated document which is difficult on the eye. When you reach the end of the document, you really do not know where you started. The government has a great deal of tidying up to do with this document.
A sports policy is not bad. It can inform government’s spending priorities in the sector. It should restrict government regulation and interference in sport. There is no role for government in regulating sport.
The President should lay to rest the debate about a National Sports Bill. It is not needed. Government may need a policy to help it push sport in schools or to determine a formula for providing support to national teams and associations. But to move towards a Bill, as is being suggested in certain quarters, is crossing the red line.
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