WHAT ails Philippine sports? This has been asked a countless times, but what makes it disturbing is that everybody seems to know the answer but no one is bold enough to lead the revolution for change.
Debacle should no longer be the operative word here because it isn’t surprising anymore. The reality is that PH sports have been in the doldrums for quite some time now because sports officials keep on doing the same thing while expecting different results. Many have the temerity to hang on for years”•some for even decades”•to their posts,even if their leadership or the lack of it has only produced heartache and gloom for the Filipino sports fans.
But before people bark up the wrong tree, who are the sports officials we’re talking here?
In simple terms, Philippine sports is composed of the different national sports associations or NSAs, the collective group of which comprises the Philippine Olympic Committee or POC. Each Olympic sport has its own NSA.
The POC, whose officials are composed of the heads of the NSAs, is the only recognized regulating body in the Philippines by the NSAs’ international federations.
It is the NSAs and the POC, not the Philippine Sports Commission or PSC, that are the government’s sports and funding arm, and which create the programs and training of their respective sports.
The NSAs select the athletes and train them to represent the country. Under the charter of their international federations and in the sacred name of Olympism, the NSAs are also supposed to be free from government intervention.
Therefore, the PSC has no hand in the affairs of the NSAs, especially in the process of selecting Philippine athletes.
Here is where it gets tricky.
While it cannot dip its hands into the affairs of the NSAs and the POC, the PSC, as mandated by law, takes the role of funding the allowances and training of the athletes.
Take note that while the PSC has no say in how the athletes are trained by the NSAs and the POC, it still is, generally, the primary source of funding of the athletes who compete in the Southeast Asian Games, Asian Games, the Olympics and other international competitions.
In the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games, for example, the PSC spent P86,777,500 to fund the Philippines’ 700-strong delegation and it covered the airfares, accommodations, uniforms and allowances of the contingent.
Aside from this budget, the PSC also took care of the equipment requirements of the different sports. The government sports agency also took the tab for the national team’s training camps and competitions here and abroad. The total cost? P350 million.
All that and the Philippine team can only show 24 golds, 30 silvers and 57 bronze medals a day before the biennial meet closes its curtain and hands over the 2019 hosting chores to the Philippines. It is 26 golds short of the target of 50 and 13 mints off fifth-running Indonesia.
It is the Philippines’ worst finish in the games.
With the dysfunctional structure of the NSAs getting aid from a government body that cannot intervene in the former’s affairs, it is unfair to the tax-paying Filipinos who technically shoulder the allowances, training abroad and other needs of the athletes chosen by the NSAs.
Take the case of this NSA of a less-popular sport. It hastily formed a team composed of former basketball players to take part in the SEA Games. As expected, this team bombed out early, losing its games in lopsided fashion, with the athletes ending up as tourists the following day.
How can this NSA be made accountable when the hands of the PSC, which funds it, are tied and cannot effect change in the NSAs’ leadership?
There should be a way to play around the system.
The PSC should use its financial power to exert pressure on these NSAs and the POC to exercise checks and balances.
The so-called leaders should not be allowed to run the affairs of an NSA like it was their own private dominion.
There are a few well-meaning, sincere NSA officials who really work their heart’s out, even to the extent of spending their own resources, which should be the ideal case to propagate their sport.
Unfortunately, some NSA officials, whose ascension to power comes through inheritance or election by a select few, do not really represent the majority of the stakeholders in the sport.
Being president of an NSA has become a status symbol for some defeated politicians and cunning businessmen to remain significant in the society.
Who would not want a lofty position in the POC? Limousine services, five-star hotel accommodations and other lofty perks dangled by the National Olympic Committee heads of different countries among themselves, are just some of the privileges accorded high-ranking NSA officials when they go abroad.
This has been the same decayed system prevailing in Philippine sports for ages.
PSC Commissioner Ramon Fernandez said that a review of Philippines’ performance in the recent SEA Games was in order. And then what?
Maybe even Congress wants an investigation. And then what?
The vicious cycle just continues. NSA leaders who have not delivered will just stay on because, for years, none have done so debacle after debacle.
PSC Chairman William Ramirez may have started to break the chain with his plan to suspend the funding for non-performing NSAs. If you don’t produce, you don’t get funding. As simple as that.
The simpler solution, though, is stepping down to give others a chance. If it’s broke, then it needs fixing.
Sadly, those who are doing the fixing need some fixing themselves.