By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
WHO is responsible for the financial fiasco that forced the Bahamas Basketball Federation to leave the women’s national basketball team home, instead of travelling last week to compete in the Centrobasket Tournament.
The team, having qualified for the tournament when they clinched the bronze medal at the FIBA Caribbean Women’s Basketball Championships in July, was preparing to head to Mexico for the tournament that ran from November 20-27.
But after exhausting all avenues, the federation decided at the last minute to pull the plug on the trip and just concentrated on the men’s national basketball team that was playing in the FIBA Americas qualifying round for the Word Cup. During a sitting of the House of Assembly, Opposition Leader Michael Pintard blasted Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Mario Bowleg for the government’s inability to assist the ladies’ team in getting off to Mexico.
But during a press conference on Monday to launch the 34th Father Marcian Peters Invitational Basketball Tournament, Bowleg refuted those claims and attempted to set the record straight on where the blame should fall.
“The government doesn’t have the authority to present any team to represent this country in any sporting discipline,” he said. “For all teams that are presented to represent this country, they are presented by the sporting federation discipline. “Once the federation makes a decision on whether that team could travel or not, the government doesn’t have the authority on whether or not that team should travel. The federation would seek financial assistance from the government. The government would provide the necessary assistance.”
As the immediate past president of the BBF, who agitated from time to time for more funding to assist their national team programmes, Bowleg said it’s important for the federations to be prudent in their spending of the funds that are allocated to them by the government.
“I think the decision was made after speaking with the president of the Bahamas Basketball Federation (Eugene Horton) that it was not in their financial decision to send that team to represent the country. “They felt that they had some necessary outstanding bills that came about from the senior men’s team and they wanted to take care of them. All of us know it doesn’t make sense to put yourself in great debt by sending another team when you have some outstanding bills to take care of.”
Now sitting in the chair as the minister, Bowleg said he understands that it’s not practical for the government to fund all national team trips and so they make their financial contributions to the federations, who in turn make the decision on how they will fund their national teams. “That is why this ministry has a budget, which it allocates funding for the 2022-2023 year. Those allocations also gives us some extra funding that we can give to federations if the need arises,” he revealed. “I think basketball would have exhausted the necessary funding that was allocated to them.”
Bowleg cracked the joke that the allocation of funding is likened to a parent with 10 children.
“After I give one, I now have to look out for the next nine,” he quipped.
“So we do our best to ensure that we fund those associations to the best of our abilities. But I must say, federations have to find corporate sponsors and find means and ways to raise revenue.”
Bowleg said it is incumbent on all federations – present and future – to devise ways to secure funding and not be out there wondering where their dollars are coming from.
As an administration, Bowleg assured the federations that his ministry will continue to assist wherever possible.
But only to the extent that they can while assisting the various sporting bodies with their national programmes.