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GOVERNMENT MUST TAKE SPORTS ADMINISTRATION OUT OF THE DOLDRUMS

By Shyamon Jayasinghe, Melbourne

It is clear that all is not well in the arena of sports administration in Sri Lanka. There is a crisis brewing, once again, in Sri Lanka Cricket. The Minister of Sport has sacked the governing board just on the eve of the AGM. The body that controls Athletics has also got into a soup with a Minister having invaded it and become CEO, beating his nearest rival in the AGM elections by just one or two votes and that amidst allegations of vote rigging.

Creating a portfolio for sport was a step in the right direction taken a few decades ago. Some useful work had been done by some ministers like, for instance Gamini Dissanayake who saw to it that the Sri Lanka cricket team reached ICC status. A fair amount of public spending has also occurred during the years for sport development in rural areas. However, I am not sure whether the government has a proper realization of the value of sports activity. Had this been grasped, the kind of donkey dealing in the administration of the apex controlling bodies would not have taken place. In today’s context, sport can bring big money. A recent survey has revealed that in England, for instance, sports have generated one and a half per cent of the country’s total value-added. Nearly two per cent of the employed population are in sports-related activities in that country. There is also the growing phenomenon of sports tourism. This kind of pattern may be valid for all affluent countries. In Australia sports is given very high recognition and a huge amount of investment goes for building infrastructure facilities.

The global demand for international participation in sports like cricket, soccer, athletics etc means that poor countries like Sri Lanka can reap good harvest by revamping sports development. I don’t know whether our Ministry has a clue about this potential, although it has been compelled to experience it in the case of cricket where the governing body has become a prosperous one. It does not keep adequate statistics and data relating to sport in the country; nor has there been any interest shown in keeping abreast of such information on which alone sound forward decisions can be made. Sports officials appear to be more perks- oriented and are busy harvesting rather than adding input. Like the minister who grabbed athletics, politicians are also more intent on plucking the golden feathers.

Besides the impact on the economy from sports, other invaluable benefits accrue to society from the latter. Both sports and arts keep our youth gainfully and healthily occupied providing them an enjoyable outlet for their energy which otherwise may be directed to socially less desirable areas. Again, sports help to forge our diverse people together and strengthen social interaction. Here is another useful area for inter-communal relationship development. In this way, sport can help nation-building. In tensely fought out international cricket matches, for instance, the Lankan spectator interest is so intense and so undivided that Sri Lanka becomes a nation during such episodes.

Let’s hope the present minister wastes no more time in fiddling with the problem. Let him seek the advice of reputed international sports bodies like Cricket Australia so that our sports administration is put in a strong position. He should ensure that MPs and ministers do not creep into such bodies and politicise them. Such bodies should be in the safe hands of sports professionals and reputed men and women who can behave fairly and inventively.



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