THE Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA) would need in excess of US$100,000 (approximately J$8,600,000) per year to assist all the Jamaican athletes who are in need, based on present requests.
This figure is significantly more than the approximately J$4,000,000 that is allocated each year for athletes’ assistance by the national governing body.
Ludlow Watts, treasurer for the JAAA, said the track body is well aware of the needs of the athletes — both local and overseas-based — and does as best as it can to help, but emphasised that unless the JAAA gets more corporate support it cannot do as much as it would like.
Watts was among four highprofile JAAA officials who were guests at yesterday’s Observer Monday Exchange at the newspaper’s Beechwood Avenue headquarters.
The others were Grace Jackson, first vice-president; Alfred Francis, executive member; and Dennis Gordon, public relations officer.
The JAAA officials were speaking against the background of Jamaica’s dominant position in world athletics today and the fact that the country’s top athletes are big crowd pullers at major track meets, especially in Europe.
Watts said there were a number of athletes on the “periphery and [who are] not great yet, so they do not have the level of sponsorship, if any at all” and who needed the assistance to take care of medical bills, living expenses while training, training expenses, paying coaches’ fees, paying for the use of training facilities in some cases and getting to and from competition.
He said all these expenses for preparation come before the athletes even start competing and without which they find it difficult to make the grade.
Additionally, overseas-based athletes who are selected for any of the three teams to the World Championships, Central American and Caribbean Seniors and Pan-American Games are refunded their airfares, Watts said.
He said an amount of $4 million and upwards is allocated each year, depending on the budget, towards assisting the many athletes who are in need and added that they were always seeking the assistance of corporate Jamaica to take care of the welfare of the athletes.
Francis defended the JAAA’s role in assisting the athletes, saying the track and field body “has done a lot towards the total development of the person, not just the athlete on the track but holistically, their education and for life after track and field”.
Watt said they had tried constantly to increase revenue and will continue to seek innovative ways to get sponsorship, but said “it is not from lack of trying, but we have not been able to get adequate support from the Jamaican business community”.
Local and international sponsors, gate receipts and television rights are part of the revenue stream, Watts said, but stressed that a lot more can be done.
Francis invited firms to partner with the JAAA at the early stages when sponsorship is more in need, rather than wait until an athlete has had some success then jumping on board.
“We invite these sponsors to come onboard and work with some of these young talents and help in their development process,” he said.