'Tax reform needed for sport as well'
Administrators say bureaucratic red tape stifling local industry
AS the debate rages about tax reform, local sporting administrators are beseeching authorities not to omit one of the country's highest income earners — sport.
The relevant stakeholders are currently holding discussions on the Green Paper for the National Sports Policy, with the White Paper expected later this month.
However, this close to a signing off on the long-called for document, former Jamaica Volleyball Association (JAVA), president Carole Beckford, who is now the publicist for triple Olympic champion and world record-holder Usain Bolt, says the document needs to be more specific in how it deals with the importation of sporting equipment.
"I want Racers and MVP to be able to import hurdles that aren't made here; starting blocks and so on at reduced cost, without having to define what is a hurdle (and) what is a ball," Beckford said while speaking at a panel discussion on developing entrepreneurship in sport held at the University of Technology's (UTech) Technology Innovation Centre on Wednesday.
"You wouldn't like to know that I have had to write to the JMA (Jamaica Manufacturers Association) to define what a volleyball is to get it in free into this country because I'm sending it to 30 schools so that we can make the next World Championships," Beckford added.
While the Green Paper on the National Sports Policy speaks to the tax-free importation of sporting goods and equipment, Beckford, who is also president of the "Business of Sport", said she is not looking for a free ride.
"It can't just be free because we're living in a developing country. What I want is a definition of what is a tool of trade for an athlete. The policy should speak to those things," she stated.
President of the MVP Track and Field Club, Bruce James, who was also a panellist, had said that his club, out of sheer frustration with the bureaucracy involved, has shifted its approach and now pays whatever is demanded.
However, it means the club's athletes have to perform so well that their earnings can cover the sometimes prohibitive costs involved.
"We used to have that position of 'why are they making it so hard?' Even the very gear that the athletes are supposed to train in when it arrives at the port they want to hold it. It's got to the point where it's too hard and we cannot spend our effort to lobby for discounts and waivers," James said.
"It's almost too hard to fight the battle of trying to convince somebody to allow the athletes to get their spikes in. From our perspective we are going to make our athletes so great that we can afford to pay whatever they charge," he added.
James and Beckford, who collectively represent several of the country's most successful athletes, including Bolt, former world record holder Asafa Powell and Olympic champions Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Melaine Walker, said they were not invited to be part of any of the discussions on the National Sports Policy.
"Now that we have the opportunity to churn this (sport) into an industry the policy should reflect that. It's a template that we should follow. We are trying to write a manual for an industry that is not recognised," Beckford said.
According to the National Sports Policy Green Paper, research conducted in Jamaica in 2006/2007 revealed that sport contributed to more than two per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and two per cent of jobs.
"It is ranked among the highest in terms of payback to the country for every dollar of foreign exchange spent on capital investment."
The need for a National Sports Policy has been at the forefront of sporting discussions since Jamaica's record performances in Beijing in 2008 and Berlin a year later.