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UPCOMING OLYMPIC GAMES

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In light of recent issues raised by the Women’s Soca Warriors with regards to match fees for participation at the Pan American Games with the T&T Football Association (TTFA), T&T Olympic Committee (TTOC) president, Brian Lewis says a new structure will be put in place going forward for all sporting bodies.

Last weekend, the national women’s team threatened a boycott of the Pan American Games over the non-agreement of match fees for the tournament, before Minsiter of Sport Brent Sancho stepped in to assist. While no financial agreement was reached between the TTFA, the Women Soca Warriors, and the Ministry of Sport, it was agreed that the team would go to the tournament which begins next week in Canada as planned while the matter will be resolved on their return.

The entire issue was reminiscent of the last December when the Women Soca Warriors left T&T for the Women Concacaf Championship, a qualifier to the just concluded FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada, with US$500. Back then former coach USA’s Randy Waldrum and a few players took to twitter to express their disgust at the situation and it was only then the team received an outpouring of support from locals and foreigners, including the Haitian national women’s team.

Less than a year later, the Maylee Attin-Johnson skippered squad finds itself in another financial issue, this time over match fees for the tournament with the players rumoured to be asking for US$500 a match each.

After being told by persons attached to the team of the situation, Minister of Sport, Brent Sancho, a former World Cup defender Sancho said he could not understand what the issues were in terms of match fees and preparation for the Pan Am Games since the TTFA recently received “Gold Cup money” from Concacaf.

“The federation got money from Concacaf for preparation for the Gold Cup and airfare but we (Government) are paying for airfare,” Sancho said. In response, TTFA general secretary Sheldon Phillips said the Minister may have been mistaken when it came to the figures. “We did not receive $100,000 from Concacaf (for the Gold Cup). We received around $33,000, which did go towards the two Pan Am teams.” He said the association “received an advance” from Concacaf in the absence of Ministry subventions which would have gone toward the Pan American Games.

However, the entire scenario seems to have taken a toll on TTOC boss Lewis, who is already in Canada as he tweeted on Tuesday after via his @briaclew account: “There is a reason for the TTOC having a policy in respect of per diems.” He then added: “What can I say. No one had the decency to ask @TTOC anything.”

A few tweets later, Lewis tweeted: “I sweer sometimes I just want to buss a cuss. is bacchanal after bacchanal. Never ending. Jeezzz. Distracting from whats important. “Everytime you feel you making progress. Craziness and its six steps back. And we want to know why corporate T&T reluctant to support sport.”

Contacted via email, Lewis said, “The TTOC policy and our focus is on game-related, performance-based medal bonuses and while we can’t sustainably pay stipends per diems or match fees, teams and athletes, coaches and medical staff all comply and understand this. With regards to the dispute between the TTFA and the Women Soca Warriors, Lewis said the TTOC was not consulted by TTFA and therefore was not in a position to make an informed statement.

He said, “The TTOC has always understood that its responsible for all its team members not just any one group and the TTFA is not in a position to make a credible and informed statement on a TTOC policy.” In terms of the entire T&T contingent at the Pan American Games, Lewis said the TTOC is undertaking significant efforts along with its corporate partners to provide athletes with the required welfare and preparation support.

However, in doing so the TTOC is mindful of the strategic importance to be fiscally responsible so as to not place the organisation in a compromised financial situation. “Our policy is not to depend on or place an entitlement demand on the Government,” he said. “Any request that is made to Government is only for travel funding assistance and the TTOC does not make requests of government for administrative funding support.”

Asked if he saw an issue with sporting organisations giving their athletes additional stipends for games under the TTOC, Lewis said local Olympic body maintains that all its member affiliates comply with its games related policies, as the TTOC and games organisers cover travel accommodation and meals during multi-sport games under the auspices of the TTOC.

Pressed further to clarify whether the TTOC need to give approval for sporting organisations to supplement athletes' stipends, Lewis reiterated that all Games related decisions are the purview of the TTOC. He said persons should note and be reminded the TTOC policy on stipends, per diems and match fees and the fact that for the first time the local Olympic Committee will have performance based medal bonuses.

“We are always mindful of athlete welfare issues, and have had discussions in relation to loss of income issues, however loss of income supplementation requires significant funding resources if it is to be sustained. “In the past and at the current time, loss of income supplementation or replacement cannot be funded or supported by the TTOC.

“The T&TOC under the Olympic Charter has sole and exclusive authority for the multi-sport events under the auspices of the International Olympic Committee. “These are Summer Olympic Games, Winter Olympic Games, Youth Olympics, Winter Games, Commonwealth Games,  Youth Commonwealth Games, Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games and the Pan American Games.

“The T&TOC therefore will only focus on events falling under its jurisdiction and given recent developments, I believe our Olympic Committee will require in the future, that all team members and organisations sign in advance a participation agreement.”

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