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Freedom of speech is a concept lost on many

Perhaps to the relief of many sports organisations, this will be the final Friday Forum.

It has been both fun and frustrating in the sense that some in Bermuda have yet to grasp the concept of freedom of speech. As are all columns, it is simply opinion. Some agree, some don’t, many don’t care.

Those who have had the opportunity to put their thoughts on paper should consider it a privilege.

I’ve been fortunate to have not once suffered interference from editors or managers as regards content. I’ve had the privilege to write about whoever and whatever I’ve chosen. And providing there’s no hint of libel, that’s the way it should be. That freedom is essential.

Newspaper writers, as I found out many years ago long before the Forum began, must develop thick skins, as those who criticise others can expect a double dose of vitriol in return.

Certainly that’s been the case on many Fridays. If you dish it out, prepare to take it.

No doubt those who have been on the receiving end of what they may have considered unfair comment will have felt hard done by. And some might have had a case.

Yet there remain far too many administrators who resent scrutiny. Some sports governing bodies still refuse to exhibit transparency.

That’s maybe why so many sports in the past decade have flourished and others stagnated.

The Bermuda Cricket Board is a prime example. The sport has declined partly because it has maintained a tight rein on its players and clubs. It has tried to bypass the media and suffered the consequences — muzzling its international players, refusing to respond to simple questions. Do cricketers need that protection. Can’t they speak for themselves?

Other sports yearn for publicity, complaining they don’t get enough, complaining that our two national sports, cricket and football, are given a disproportionate amount of attention.

We would like to think that has changed, but perhaps not enough.

In the past decade athletics, swimming, triathlon, golf, tennis, sailing and cycling, to name but a few, have expanded because they have sought more publicity and benefited from what they have been afforded. Positive publicity invites participation.

Many of those sports have grown despite the lack of support from Government. In the lengthy Throne Speech last month, sport deemed worthy of just two paragraphs in a document of several pages. That is astonishing, given that the Island has produced so many world-class athletes from a variety of sports in a country of only 60,000 people.

It is difficult to understand why sport continues to be at the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to setting priorities.

Sometimes it seems the more sports grow, the less they receive in terms of financial reward.

No wonder there are so many organisations who continue to resent the $25 million-plus grants that were given to the two national sports in recent years when they survive on peanuts.

It is such discord that has prompted much of the content in this column over the past decade.

Once we had sports ministers who devoted their time to a one-word portfolio. It is many years since that was the case. In government eyes these days, sport is just a sideline, a throwaway attachment to other ministries, a second thought for those up on the Hill who concoct multiple names for our supposed leaders, none of whom consider sport a priority.

At least after today there will be one less critic. Although maybe not.

The administrators and policymakers may well run into Dexter Smith who has assumed the position of Deputy Editor (Head of Sport) at this newspaper.

A former national team player when Bermuda were considered a force among cricket’s Associate countries, he will no doubt be vocal if fair play is not adhered to.