Hockey sticking it out in hard financial times
...Looks to give game a new image in Jamaica
JAMAICA'S hockey officials have mapped a promising course with the aim of taking the sport forward, but they are faced with the proverbial hurdle — a lack of funds.
Their situation is not unique, as most sporting bodies have been grossly under-funded in Jamaica, and even more so the so-called minor associations, who are usually at the bottom of the pecking order for the financial scraps that corporate Jamaica and state-run agencies like the Sports Development Foundation (SDF) feed to them.
Even so, the Jamaica Hockey Federation (JHF) and their colleagues across other sporting disciplines know better than to bite the hands that feed them.
President of the JHF, Leon Mitchell, while congisant of the cash deprivation to run the varied programmes of his association and to take on a broad-based marketing campaign to rebrand and promote the sport more in Jamaica, remains grateful to those who have kept faith with the giving hand.
"I have to go on record and say that the SDF is a big supporter of hockey," he said as he addressed reporters at the Jamaica Observer Sports Club at the newspaper's headquarters on Beechwood Avenue on Thursday. The business executive also sought to thank JHF's pool of sponsors down the years, some of whom have remained committed through thick and thin.
"Sponsorship dollars are hard to come by in the present economic situation, but we have a vision and clear road where we want to be... and still we are going out to get other sponsors on board," noted Mitchell, the assistant general manager at Jamaican National Building Society.
He said it requires approximately $30 million to run the various portfolios of the overall hockey programme on an annual basis.
"There are two critical compartments here — facility and secretariat. Then add to the facility is the restoration of the new turf and the installation of the lights... we would need no less that $30 million which would include the upgrade of the turf, which would include a secretariat, which would include maintaining the facility.
"If you take that out, let's say $20 million, so roughly we would need $10 million for the year that would run the secretariat, ensure the running of the technical umpiring development side of the programme...we would need no less that $10 million for each year outside of a year where we have to prepare teams for the international programme," Mitchell explained.
He said the JHF gets "about $4 or $5 million (from the SDF annually) and the rest of it we raise by renting the facility, sponsorship and so on".
The subvention from the SDF, the most consistent source of funding for the JHF, is paid over monthly with $160,000 going towards running the affairs of the secretariat and another $180,000 for the maintenance of the Mona Hockey Field, another key income earner through rental of the facility.
"We have to run a secretariat so the SDF supports the payment of that secretariat... last year we went to the SDF and said 'look we have this multimillion dollar location, and we have had no funding to actually improve it'... so we managed to apply for a subvention for facilities and they support the secretariat," noted Mitchell.
As far as the secretariat goes, Mitchell said its functions are multifaceted and it's nothing short of a miracle that it has been able to execute its function on such limited funds.
"We have a secretariat with an international component, also there are clubs (to deal with), development, coaching... and the secretariat takes care of all of it," he went on.
Mitchell, who unsuccessfully challenged Rudolph Speid for the presidency of the Kingston and St Andrew Football Association recently, said a key goal of his administration is to rebrand and reposition hockey as a more attractive sport to Jamaicans.
"We are a product and if it's not sellable, then nobody is going to give you any money. But what we want to do is (first) get our facilities up, then when we close out that equation, then we go full force into the marketing side," he said.
With its coffers depleted from competing in two age-group international tournaments last year, which gobbled up $9 million, the race is on to raise the desired $30 million in their efforts to upgrade their flagship facility in Mona, and to prepare and consequently finance teams to next year's CAC Games.
"Next year we have CAC Games, so you know we get funding from the JOA as it is an Olympic qualifier... also the Pan Am (tournament) and we also get assistance for that. For the Under-21 competition we have to finance that, and last year we sent two teams to Under-21 tournaments and we had to find money for that; both competitions were held at the same time and at the same venues, so that was a big challenge last year.
"This year we have no international assignments, but we want to start our CAC preparation from now," said JHF vice-president in charge of the men's programme, Richard Wisdom.