By Neto Baptiste
The ruling Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) administration has done a poor job of advancing the country’s sports product over the past five years.
This is the assessment of former MP for the All Saints East & St Luke Constituency and a former United Progressive Party (UPP) senator, Chester Hughes, who said there has been no development, neither educational nor structural where sports is concerned.
“Sports for me has gone stagnant in Antigua and Barbuda because YASCO is still where it’s at and of course, that was the flagship for the new Labour Party administration and it is still stagnant and they are going to blame COVID of course, everything is going to be blamed on COVID and there was a lot of wastage of time in dealing with YASCO,” he said.
“Look at all of the sporting facilities, there has been absolutely no upgrading of any sporting facility in this country so how do you expect people to recreation if they do not have the facilities,” he added.
Hughes, the UPP’s spokesperson on sporting matters, hinted that the country’s sports minister Daryll Matthew is out of his depth.
“I can say that the minister [Daryll Matthew] was a basketball player, he was president of the basketball association at one time but was he really involved in overall holistic sports? My view is that this is a period of time for us to look at facilities and upgrade them so that when sports starts to really get going again in a competitive way, there is no question as to where we are going with regards to facilities and the whole planning of sports for the future,” the former MP said.
“I have not even heard of any online seminars or discussions as to where we are going or consultations on where sports ought to be going, and this is the time we should be having discussions in terms of the associations, the coaches and the ministry,” he added.
Asked about his party’s 10 years in office from 2004 to 2014 and what they had accomplished, Hughes pointed to a number structural improvements to include the lighting of most community fields.
“The UPP government lit almost every sporting field in this country which gave a rise to football and teams being able to practice in the evening and ply their trade in the nights because you know how difficult it was for many athletes to get home, go to practice at 4 pm before the sun sets and then have to compete and in some cases the lights are what finished some of the games in this country. There was a whole hullabaloo about fencing but most of these facilities that were fenced were done in the interest of getting the facilities upgraded to another level,” he said.
The government’s major project to date, the refurbishing of the country’s lone track & field facility, the YASCO Sports Complex, is yet to bear fruits having faced several delays, the latest being the deadly coronavirus pandemic.