Sport funding increase not enough, says Smith
The Shadow Minister of Sport and Youth Development has called on the Government to do more to help Bermuda's athletes reach their goals.
Ben Smith told the House of Assembly that a “small increase” in funds for national sports governing bodies was “not enough” and questioned the amount allocated to the Bermuda Sports Anti-Doping Agency.
Speaking during Monday's Budget debate on sport, Mr Smith said: “We spend a lot of money on our police, we spend a lot of money on our prisons.
“We need to spend equal amount of money for youth and sport so that we can prevent some of those issues happening later on.”
Derrick Burgess, Deputy Speaker, pointed out that there was an increase of almost $160,000 in grants.
Mr Smith said: “I'm not saying there isn't an increase — I'm saying that's not enough.
“I understand it's a small increase but a small increase isn't really moving us in the direction that we need if our children are important to us.
He added: “There are a lot of initiatives within the Department of Youth and Sport that are extremely important to the future of Bermuda.
“To continue to have a lack of funding in this particular ministry is, in my opinion, as was stated by then shadow minister, a travesty.”
Michael Weeks, the Minister of Social Development and Sport, said he stood by his comments as shadow minister that more money should be put into development than enforcement.
He told Parliament that this was why they had tried to increase the budget overall.
Mr Weeks explained grants and contribution for the Department of Youth, Sport and Recreation would total $2,775,000 in the next fiscal year — an increase of $18,000.
He said $1.3 million would be allocated among the 34 national sports governing bodies, including $650,000 for the Bermuda Sports Anti-Doping Authority.
Mr Weeks said the BSADA was “one of the most important financial items within the sports development section”.
He added: “Without the functional presence of this organisation in Bermuda, it would simply mean that Bermuda would not be able to participate in any international sporting events abroad or host any international sporting events locally.”
While Mr Smith agreed that the BSADA was “important”, he questioned why it was granted “such a large number on the budget line”.
He said: “You have to start to wonder, ‘are we producing enough athletes to match that number?'.
“When we are not giving the funding to our athletes but we are giving a lot of money to drug test those athletes, it seems that we are missing the boat. There are way too many athletes that need this help.”
His comments were echoed by One Bermuda Alliance MP Patricia Gordon-Pamplin who said: “I have a significant challenge with the balance of where we are putting money when we look at the administrative expenses for the BSADA versus the testing output.
“I am not going to say for one second that BSADA is not important. But when we look at the grant to BSADA, as against the overall grants and contribution for the ministry with the 34 national sports governing bodies and a minuscule amount being allocated to the amount that is bringing the best results, I just question the allocation.”
Mr Weeks also revealed that $300,000 in grants would go to the Bermuda Football Association, $25,000 to the department's swim team, and that youth grants would total $200,000.
He added that $150,000 would go towards sports incentives and awards, while the National Sports Centre trustees would receive $800,000.
Mr Smith asked how many public schoolchildren were using the National Sports Centre, what programmes were run there and how the centre could be used better.
He said: “I can speak from personal interactions — renting the facility is costly.”
Mr Smith said it was cheaper for his swim team to attend camp overseas than to stay in Bermuda.
He added: “I bring this up because for renting that same facility, we bring in teams from overseas who actually get the cost of using that centre supplemented by the Bermuda Tourism Authority.
“So, here our young people don't get the access because they have to pay, but we bring in people from overseas and we pay.”