In a recent interview, the President of the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA), Dr Warren Blake, revealed that some (the majority?) of our elite athletes are in financial need, as they prepare to represent the country, and themselves, in 2018. It appears as if a cash-strapped Government has been unable to continue with a J$40 million subsidy, granted in 2015, to allow our “national treasures” to be at their physical and mental best while representing the nation in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.
In 2015, local athletes who reached the relevant standards in time and distance, but who did not have sponsorship “contracts” received J$70,000 monthly to offset the expenses associated with daily training and practice. Without Government support, the governing body of track and field in Jamaica (JAAA) had to reduce this sum, as the number of athletes achieving this standard continued (pleasantly) to multiply. This is not good news, as the athletes, coaches, and support staff all strive to Make Jamaica Great Again in the post-Bolt era.
Achieving world-class standards in any sport requires full-time training, practice, nutrition and medical support. As a former prime minister reminded us many years ago, “it takes cash to care”. The question now is: where is the money to come from?
I am suggesting that the answer comes from the athletes themselves. We are all well aware that there are Jamaican track and field athletes who earn mega-bucks from appearance fees, sponsorship deals and other sources, that not only enable them to prepare and train, as their event requires, but also affords them a comfortable lifestyle, and in some well publicized cases, foundations are formed with the sole aim to “give back” to the sport that catapulted them to fame and glory. But, what about Naomi? What about the athletes who the president of the JAAA says need financial assistance?
I propose that the “sponsored” athletes who have reached the level where they believe that they have enough to “give back”, should combine with the JAAA to have a percentage of these “surplus” funds placed in a Trust or account, managed by the JAAA but specifically earmarked for athlete support. As our “national treasures” are identified and reach an accepted standard of performance this fund could be utilized to provide the support Dr Blake envisages.
Further, as any athlete who is good enough to get their own contract and financial support, and therefore does not need any further “support”, then that athlete now is mandated to assist with the development of their upcoming and soon-to-be-great fellow countrymen and women. Win-win for everyone, plus the feel good mantra of assisting in the continuing development of the nation’s youth.
Is this a reasonable proposal, or an unwelcome intrusion into the private financials of Jamaicans, who by their own talent hard work, have achieved “nirvana”? What do you think?