Saturday, October 18, 2014

Fair Play: In PHL sports, the tail wags the dog

(This is my Fair Play column for Sun.Star Cebu's Oct. 18 edition)
IN A scathing editorial after the fiasco that was the Asian Games campaign of the Philippines, a national daily proposed a shakeup of the Philippine Olympic Committee and the Philippine Sports Commission to help improve the state of Philippine sports in the country.

While I have, in the past, hoped that the guys in charge of the PSC and POC be replaced for putting up policies detrimental to the growth of Philippine sports, I have to admit, they aren’t really the primary factor for the dismal showing of the Philippines in the Asian Games.


A change in the guys leading the POC and PSC could perhaps help usher out change. But how many folks have headed both agencies in the past 14 years yet the downward spiral of Philippine sports in international competition has continued? Four straight Olympics without a medal?

So, who’s to blame?

Those who really chart the future (or failure) of Philippine sports--the heads of the different National Sports Association (NSAs).

Here’s the set-up of Philippine sports, the different NSA presidents run their own fiefdoms without any interference from the government, but gets funds from the PSC and the International Sports Associations that they are a member of. (i.e. the Philippine Football Federation from Fifa). The NSAs also form the Philippine Olympic Committee and the different presidents select among themselves who becomes the POC president.

What is the role of the PSC in all of this? The NSAs have national athletes, the PSC funds them and also give funds to the NSAs. Yes, NSAs sometimes come up with dubious list of national athletes, so the PSC has come up with a classification as to which athlete gets how much, and one of the criteria is their record in relevant international competitions.

Are you with me so far?

Because government interference is discouraged, the NSAs can do anything (or nothing at all) and still get funds. Sometimes, those running the NSAs treat their association as a business endeavor and put themselves in power forever, knowing that whenever there’s an international fiasco, the PSC and the POC get the blame.

Though they are members of the POC, the NSA presidents know they hold the power because when the election comes, the candidates have to court them, that’s why you have a POC that’s unwilling to meddle into disputes involving NSAs (and there are a lot.)

If you change the heads of the POC and the PSC and the NSAs remain unchanged, what good would that lead to? The same old story. But if the PSC interferes with who leads the various NSAs, that would even get us in bigger trouble as it could lead to our
suspension in international competitions.

So, how can you change the sports landscape under that set-up? Give up? Light a candle and say your eulogy for Philippine sports?

It’s cliche and change has to come from within, from the NSAs themselves. The PSC can help do that without interfering. There are NSAs that are doing well and have the welfare of their sports as No. 1 priority.

Help those NSAs, reward them for their hard work. That’s why I was really pissed off when the PSC barred the men’s football team from competing in the Southeast Asian Games. You have one NSA, which after decades of not doing anything, finally straightening its act and it gets punished?

Spread the support, too, the various sports commissions of LGUs that are really after sports development.

Otherwise, it’s just the same old story. The tail wags the dog and laughs its way to the bank as the heads of POC and PSC are being offered in the chopping block.

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