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Inquiry to look at how cash was spent

Glenn Blakeney, the Sports Minister, is to launch a public inquiry into how Bermuda Football Association and Bermuda Cricket Board have spent millions of dollars of public money.

The two sports have received nearly $20 million in funding during the past five years and there are question marks as to whether the investment has been worthwhile.

In terms of cricket, Bermuda have gone from playing in a World Cup to the third division of the World Cricket League, while football’s progress internationally is likely to be judged on their performance in the World Cup Qualifiers over the next couple of months.

Both sports though have issues at club level, not only in terms of the standard of the performances of the various teams on the pitch, but also in the poor behaviour on and off the field, something that plagues both sports equally.

While Mr Blakeney doesn’t believe the administrators of either the BFA or the BCB have anything to hide, he is still keen to have an official inquiry into where the money has gone.

“We gave cricket and football (a lot of money),” he said. “We spent so much money in committing to giving the two national sports’ (cricket and football) governing bodies the financial resources that we felt was warranted in enabling them to develop access to better training, better facilities, better programmes.

“So I’m looking to do an inquiry of both sports, I’ve yet to speak to football in a formal way, I have spoken to an executive member of the BCB in an informal way, and they have no problem with it.”

Mr Blakeney has already asked for, and been given, the financial records by both governing bodies explaining where, how and why the money was spent. However, the Minister is now keen to dig a little deeper to try to find out if what occurred was a sensible use of the substantial resources Government provided.

“The national sports’ governing bodies of football and cricket I don’t think have anything to hide. They have, as a result of an imperative, shared their financials with us, so we know, where, how, and why the money was spent.

“But now, what I want to do is drill down and see…even though there is a rationale and a substantiation of where it was spent, could it have been spent better and in other areas?

“Where was the priority? And look at that and if it was done as good as it could, has it impacted a better level of play, a better standard, has it endeared better behaviour.

“I don’t think we’ll agree it’s endeared better behaviour, so, was any of it put on addressing some of the dysfunction, the antisocial behaviour in the sports.

“Maybe we can look from that perspective and say, ‘Well, okay, what would be recommended going forward’?”

Mr Blakeney was keen to stress, however, that the inquiry was not intended to be a witch-hunt, but does believe that only by having an open and honest discussion will things improve in the future.

“I’m not looking from the perspective of engaging a witch-hunt, or anything like that, or to substantiate why we should never make that kind of commitment again in the future,” said the Minister.

“But, what did we get for the money spent? It’s a legitimate question, and if we didn’t get what we should have gotten, I don’t necessarily think it was due to a lack of effort on behalf of the governing bodies.

“There are all sorts of schools of thought on how money should be used when people have it. Some have it and use it in a way where they lose it, others have it and use it in a way where they compound it.

“There are schools of thought on where priorities should be, should have been, can be, will be, and that’s maybe where we can get (some progress) with regard to some questions being answered or asked that may not have been asked yet.”

Ultimately, Mr Blakeney said the inquiry may affect what sort of funding football and cricket get from future Budgets, and the ability of both national teams to compete at regional level first and foremost will go a long way to deciding that.

For the Minister, seeing an improvement does not necessarily mean winning every tournament in sight, but it does mean results that show a team is getting progressively better.

“(I want) to see if we continue to engage with Government committing the kind of funds that sports needs to help the programmes so that we can compete even at regional level, more competitively than I think it (the money) has warranted,” said Mr Blakeney.

“If I’ve spent a lot of money, I’m expecting a result. What’s the result? Win, not necessarily, I just expect you to be more competitive.

“So if you are losing on aggregate by two goals to the best teams in your region it’s like, okay, we’ve got to get to drawing matches and then get to winning.”

It is here that cricket, in particular, may struggle. Not too long ago Bermuda were beating Canada and USA on a regular basis, that isn’t the case any more and the Island has been left behind by some of their neighbours on the international stage.

“If we’re losing by four or five goals and I’m still spending money, and we’re not improving on those results, it means the competitive level hasn’t risen on a consistent basis so that we can say we’re at a certain standard in comparison to our peers,” said Blakeney.

“And then I’ve got a problem, I’ve got to reassess. Is it a case of throwing more money at the problem, or less money in better areas.”

Inquiry: Sports Minister Glenn Blakeney

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Published August 29, 2011 at 10:00 am (Updated August 29, 2011 at 9:54 am)

Inquiry to look at how cash was spent

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