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Joseph ‘Reds’ Perreira turned 80 on May 20th and deserves more than congratulatory words for this milestone. Reds came to Saint Lucia from his native Guyana in 1984 to head the OECS Sports Desk and still follows sports with great passion even after his 12-year role ended.
Reds says he is happy to celebrate 80 years of life, but not happy with the pace of sports development in the OECS, especially in Saint Lucia. Grenada is the exception. That island continues to improve in depth and consistency in sports administration and sporting competitions, according to Reds.
In some areas of Saint Lucia, sports seem to be declining rather than improving because the club structures are too loose. There are many teams with no club establishment, no management, no discipline, no fund-raising activities and no mentoring. Many clubs (and associations) are not presenting annual accounts exhibit accountability, or of holding an annual general meeting on time.
Said Reds, “I have made this point before; weak club structure results in weak associations. Club administration should be non-playing members and separate from the team representing the club in competitions. National associations should therefore ask to see copies of club rules, structure and how clubs are run before they are allowed to register for competitions.”
According to Reds, it’s easy for an association to accept fees from teams wishing to participate in sports competitions. Reds concedes that the need for separate club management structures seems to be finally getting home. The Saint Lucia Football Association for example, is now licensing clubs for their respective affiliates to participate in competitions. This move is supported by CFU and FIFA. Will other national associations try and follow this policy?
As far as Reds is concerned, the Saint Lucia National Olympic Committee (NOC) should ensure that national federations and associations are functioning as they should, and in good standing. Making discrete inquiries in the month-to-month activities of these affiliates, without unnecessary interference, is recommended. The Ministry of Youth and Sports must also play a role in ensuring that national sports associations are functioning and carrying out their responsibilities. Reds posed the following rhetorical question: How many associations in Saint Lucia can take advantage of the funds and training offered by the SLU, NOC?
To further emphasize the point of support for national associations and federations Reds informed this writer that some Caribbean countries spend large sums of money bringing in professional coaches to help improve coaching skills in the country. The same applies to the training of officials. Training must be a high priority in sports development.
As far as facilities are concerned Reds believes that most are underutilized, especially in Saint Lucia and the OECS region.
“We must begin to look at facilities differently and use them differently. These were built with good intentions but different administrations continue to use them as they were used in bygone days and not in line with changing needs. These sports facilities are unused between 6am and 3pm daily. There is therefore an opportunity for the Ministry of Sports, Ministry of Social Transformation and Ministry of Education with the help of the private sector and the hotels association to bring the unemployed youth to these facilities and into a sporting discipline.”
Reds continued: “In the Castries area the following playing grounds come to mind; La Clery, Vigie, (football and boxing), the Gardens, Foux-a-Chaud, Marchand recreations grounds and Mindoo Philip Park. These should be brought to full use between 6am and 3pm at least twice a week for football, volleyball, boxing, track and field and basket ball. Participants should be provided with drinking water, juice and a snack by the private sector and the hotels working together with government. This must be a separate and distinct programme from the $20.6 million the government recently allotted to sports.” Indeed, Reds believes that this grass roots approach to helping at risk youth is the place for special attention and focus.
“The youth participating in this special sports coaching project should be placed in a separate data base and monitored for progress. We may be surprised at the excellence that will be discovered from this effort,” says Reds. “The media must be the watch dog for sports in Saint Lucia and the OECS.” With the right support of the media and the general public, this kind of programme can be very successful. It is important that regular reports be aired on the electronic media and the youth highlighted for their effort and progress,” Reds added.
Do the media have the talent or ability to support and promote a grass roots sports programme as described by Reds? Reds believes they do.
“Interestingly, most media employ full-time sportscasters who are in a position to ask questions that can help improve sporting standards” says Reds. “The media must do this without conflict of interest. To be more specific, the media can ensure that sponsors get their deserved credits; that sportscasters provide more detailed information on national programmes; that they help investigate why particular associations are not functioning. They should, without fear or favour or bias regularly report on the positives and negatives of various clubs and associations.”
The above are some of the feelings that Reds still holds dear, at age eighty.
When asked an opinion on the new West Indies Cricket Board, Red said that it was too early to comment even though he feels that the immediate past selectors and coaches should not have been dismissed ‘en masse’ so soon.
“I would not have dismissed the selectors or the coaches of West Indies cricket after the team’s favourable performance against England in the Caribbean this year and before a clear succession plan was established. I would have waited until after cricket world cup to revamp the core of the structure.”
On the Caribbean 2019 premier league (CPL) season, Reds thinks there has not been sufficient information to make an informed opinion. “One thing seems certain Darren Sammy seems poised to lead the Saint Lucia Zouks once more.” Reds hopes that ticket prices especially in Saint Lucia will be reasonable and affordable so more people can come and support Sammy and the Zouks.
I could not end this 80th birthday tribute to Joseph ‘Reds’ Pereira before pointing out the comprehensive report at page four of last weekend’s Star Business Week magazine on the Saint Lucia government sports budget for 2019/20. I recommend that it be read by the sporting public and those interested in helping to build better communities through sports.