By Neto Baptiste
Minister of Sports, Daryll Matthew, has made it clear that government will not thrust itself into the midst of an ongoing feud between the executive board of the Antigua and Barbuda Boxing Association (ABBA) and some members over the body’s refusal to regularize its status through constitutionally due elections.
Matthew, speaking on the Good Morning Jojo Sports Show, said that although the ministry is well aware of the issues raised by the aggrieved members, the ministry remains neutral on the matter and urged the angered members to take their plight to the sports regional and or international bodies.
“It’s frowned upon when governments get involved in the administration of national associations and so, apart from maybe personal relationships that I may have with the different administrators, it is not really in our place to go and grab the bull by the horn and say, you must have elections, you must do this or you must do that. We can advise, we can push for it to be done, there are certain things that we can do in terms of the support that we offer through the ADARP funding to force certain policies which we try not to do because ultimately, it is the athletes that get affected,” he said.
Reports are that the association has not held annually due elections in over 10 years and, according to some aggrieved members, attempts to have those in power to bring the status of the executive up to date have been ignored.
The body, despite its unwillingness to hold constitutionally due elections, however, continues to receive government support for athletes who travel for training or to represent the twin-island state.
Matthew said the government will continue to support the athletes as they continue to lobby the head of the association, Len Mussington, to regularize the body’s affairs.
“It is not fair to the athletes that because the administration and other entities can’t get along the athletes suffer so we try not to make decisions that negatively impact the athletes so yes, the administration needs to sort it’s issues out and as I indicated, that is best done through the National Olympic Committee but we will continue in whatever way, shape or form to support the athletes,” the minister said.
Matthew said the role of the ministry is to ensure that athletes representing the country are provided with the necessary tools to get the job done to the best of their ability and that that the body will not play politics by withholding funding from those who would have worked hard to qualify to compete on the international stage.
“What persons don’t recognize is that we [ministry] will never take a position where athletes become the pawns in a game of chess between two entities. It is not the athletes’ fault if the executive isn’t functioning properly, it is not the athletes’ fault if there are stakeholder groups that disagree with the executive and they believe things should happen in a particular way but it is not the athletes fault and so the athletes ought not to be made to suffer. The athletes’ athletic career ought not to be compromised because the adults in the room can’t get along together,” he said. The boxing association has not held national championships in 10 years while there has not been a general meeting in almost a decade. Efforts to get a comment from the head of the association, Len Mussington, continues to prove futile.