MANDEVILLE, Manchester — The Central Manchester Sports Development Committee was recently launched as part of what organisers say is a drive to structure sports teams and unite communities in the constituency.
"Globally, sporting activities continue to be a conduit through which individuals and communities can be drawn under one umbrella for a centralised cause," member of parliament Peter Bunting told the Jamaica Observer Central.
"Sports play an integral part in Jamaican culture and have helped to propel the nation to unimaginable heights despite its small size. Based on this, a sports committee, in my estimation, provides an appropriate means through which the unification of communities within Central Manchester can be realised," Bunting added.
The MP said the committee "will establish an avenue for constituents to develop their sporting talents while providing a viable alternative to gang involvement. I think the activities commissioned by the committee will help us to bridge the gap and tension created by political segregation..."
Arguing that "sport is a natural gravity" chairman of the committee, Wensworth Skeffery, emphasised that its work would be "non-partisan".
Skeffery said that the plan is to focus, for the time being, on netball, football, cricket, and domino, with the first phase ending in mid-October.
All communities in Central Manchester with organised sports teams were "free" to get involved, he said.
Skeffery said his committee hoped to develop the programmes with an "ambitious" budget of $7 million. For the medium term, itemised costs will include coaching clinics on weekends for students at the primary level, workshops for coaches of the respective sports, gears for the teams, and payment for officials at the matches.
"Long term is that the committee will grow from strength to strength in Manchester. We are not reinventing the wheel. We want this truly to be an activity for Central Manchester. We are open for suggestions and consultations. We are basically complementing the sports activities (in the area). It is not a competing force, it is a unifying force," said Skeffery.
The launch activities included a netball rally and Kaydean Holness, president of the Manchester Netball Association, said that she was pleased that her discipline was chosen to start off the project as due to a lack of funding the game has been almost "dormant". She is hoping that Skeffery's committee will assist with funding to boost the association's efforts to organise its own leagues and rallies.
Kirk Robinson, community development officer at the Social Development Commission, said that the Sports Development Committee will build "social capital" in Central Manchester.
Robinson added that once the committee's vision is achieved, it will assist in the development of other projects that will build the economy and infrastructure in Central Manchester.
The sports project is currently funded through the Constituency Development Fund and private sponsors. However, the chairman said that since the project is still in its "embryonic stage" the more sponsors that come on board, the "merrier".
Central Manchester member of parliament Peter Bunting with members of the Bellefield High School netball team at the recent launch of the Central Manchester Sports Development Committee. Bellefield High was among 15 teams that participated in a netball rally which was a part of the day's activities.