GOVERNMENT MUST TAKE SPORTS ADMINISTRATION
OUT OF THE DOLDRUMS
By Shyamon Jayasinghe,
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 todays 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 countrys
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 dont 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.
Lets 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.