Sports Minister Speaks On Mess At MCCOn Monday, 7News told you about Yaya Marin-Coleman's 24-hour, 2-person protest for against the use of the MCC Grounds for the big DIGICELL 10th Anniversary concert. Well, with the public interest and pressure it has been generating, today, Minister of State with responsibility for Youth and Sports Herman Longsworth has decided to state the clear position of his ministry on this issue.
As we told you, the Football Federation of Belize has loudly protested the use of the MCC Grounds for anything other than sports because these other functions cause damage to the integrity of the facility.
Their biggest complaint is that there are signs of tire tracks on the field where the people in charge of those public functions drive unto the football pitch to transport equipment.
Well, Longsworth addressed the media this evening, and he told us that there will be more strict measures put in place to protect the facility.
But first, he put the need for the use of the facility for public functions into context by drawing comparison to the public terror incident which unfolded at the BTL Park Fest, the next day after the Digicell Concert at the MCC.
Here's how he explained it:
Hon. Herman Longsworth - Minister of State/Youth and Sports
"The day after, I believe it was, there was an event across the street, where gunshots were heard, and people had to be running away, from that area. This is why we need to have a secure place, where we can secure our people for functions like these. We must; there is no place else in Belize City that we use. Until we can find somewhere else, we must strike that balance. We must allow people to use that place. Until such time as those responsible for culture and social services can find a proper venue for safe activities other than sports to happen, we have a responsibility. We have a moral responsibility to ensure that we assist. And that's what we've been trying to do; that is exactly what we've been trying to do. It is unfortunate that those who have a passion for sports would be so selfish as not to see that there is a life outside of sports, and that there are other things in this country that our people get involved in, especially our youth. Again, my responsibility is not only for sports; it also for the development of our youths. And where sports are concerned, I don't see my responsibility as to further sports, but rather to develop our society through sports. And so, we must find ways of making everything interact, and working with each other. Now, the National Sports Council has come up with a policy, where they will rent the facility to promoters and organizers of events, other than sporting events, providing that those events do not coincide with sporting events. Sporting events will take priority every time, over any other event. They've also instituted a policy where these organizers of these events are required to make a deposit outside of the rental fees with the National Sports Council. That deposit is to be used to repair the field, if the field is damage, also other areas of the facility, where it is deemed to be damaged. No vehicles are allowed on the field anymore. Regardless of what is to be done, they must manually move their equipment unto the field. I have been to the field, and I invite you to go back to the MCC. Not a single thing has been done to the field, since this event. I invite you to go back and look at the field. The field is very much what it would look like after a very competitive football match played in rain."
Longsworth also said that in the near future, there will be plans put in place to try to put a protective surface over the pitch for these public functions.
And while we had access to Longsworth, we asked him about the Belize Cycling Association.
As we've reported numerous times, there is a rift in the association because of the disagreement between the former BCA president, Emil Moreno, and president aspirant, Dion Leslie.
Today was supposed to be the day where an interim executive committee chaired by the National Sports Council was to be installed to hold over until representatives of the regional cycling bodies arrive to oversee elections.
Longsworth explained that one of the parties involved tried to quote, 'derail to process':
Hon. Herman Longsworth
"We've proposed to institute an interim committee. We invited the entities that had shown interest in running for elections for the executive, to have 2 seats on that committee. They were to have equal participation the committee, and the National Sports Council will chair the committee. I was hoping to do it today. It failed because one party, for whatever reason, chose to try to derail the process. Those parties were invited here today, for us to formally form the committee. One group came, as they were invited to come, and they were several other people who came. I have no idea why they came. I invited the people who initially invited to the meeting to come into the room, and I told the others that they were not allowed into the meeting, and that if they wanted to discuss cycling with me, I had no problem. They could discuss cycling with me when I was through with the meeting. They could sit with me, and discuss cycling because I have an open-door policy. Anybody can come here, sit, and discuss with me. The second party chose not. They said, 'Well, we don't have representation. We are not ready.' Well, if you are not ready, you were told in advance. If you are not ready, then it makes no sense to come to the meeting. We won't have a meeting, so we will proceed. I will ask - I have asked - and I am hoping they will agree, the National Olympic Committee to now form a part of that committee by taking up those seats, which that one party chose not to take up. But, we will move with cycling."
"So, that interim committee is now effected."
Hon. Herman Longsworth
"It is not yet effected because I need the National Olympic Committee has not said whether or not they will participate. If they don't want to participate, I will ask independent Belizeans, who are serious about sports, to form a part of that committee."
"I was told that the Sagitun Banana Classic was forced to cancel due to this -"
Hon. Herman Longsworth
"Let's also clear the air there. What was recommended to the promoters - because we can't tell the promoters what to do - what we told them that if the race is to be sanctioned by this interim committee, and if the officials, who handle races, are to officiate that race, it would need to be postponed. We recommended that they postpone it to the middle of January. That would give enough time to the people who officiate these races, to plan properly, and to ensure that everything is in place for the race. The promoters opted not to have the race, but they've kept it on the calendar for the upcoming calendar year."
As noted in the interview, the interim committee is expected to be in place to oversee the next big race on the calendar, which is the 23rd Edition of Krem New Year's Day Cycling Classic.