By Neto Baptiste
The development of athletes at the grassroots level and the building of a strong sports tourism product are high on the agenda for the United Progressive Party (UPP) should they succeed at the polls when general elections are called.
This was revealed by the party’s candidate for the St. John’s City South Constituency, Franz DeFreitas, who said the current administration missed the boat when it comes to sports tourism and the potential benefits for the twin-island state.
“That is something that I don’t know if the people who are looking at it now are sleeping but not a soul has looked at how it is we can leverage the 365 beaches that we have here, the talent and sports that we have and the resources of Antigua and Barbuda. It is nearly 330 days a year we have straight sun and we have so many people looking for sun, looking for places, but we have no facilities that we have invested in and developed and so we have no package that we can sell,” he said.
The candidate, who will seek to dislodge the sitting MP for St John’s City South, Steadroy Benjamin, when the vote is called, believes the development of the country’s youth sporting prospects is being ignored.
He posited that urgent and effective methods will be put in place to combat the neglect.
“Sports is critical to the development of the young people in Antigua and Barbuda and oftentimes when we say sports, what I find is that we only view it from a very limited perspective, which is that of the athlete, but sports has a wide range,” DeFreitas said.
“In St John’s City South, the grassroots sports programme that we are developing for the community not only will create athletes, but it is going to create referees, coaches, statisticians, sports psychologists, sports doctors, physiotherapists, social media administrators, agents, facilities personnel, media personnel and management for sports teams,” he added.
Speaking on the Good Morning Jojo Sports Show at the time, DeFreitas said the UPP has been in consultation with a number of knowledgeable individuals regarding the state of sports in Antigua and Barbuda, as plans are to remedy the deficiencies plaguing development and growth in that area.
“The United Progressive Party has sat with a number of stakeholders and are discussing a comprehensive plan and currently, I believe the system is very disjointed. If you look at schools sports vs league sports and how they link up with officiating bodies — whether it be the NOC or other governing bodies — there don’t seem to be any smooth interaction, or they are not on the same page. And then, we don’t have community sports in Antigua and Barbuda and so that is a whole section that is missing,” he said.
General elections in Antigua and Barbuda are constitutionally due in March 2023.