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International Cycling Classic getting run-around for funds

The Chief Secretary Orville London has expressed disdain at the Ministry of Sports for reneging on yet another commitment for funds for a major sporting event on the island.

Only recently the THA had to fork out a little more than half a million dollars, part of which was promised to the Tobago Youth Golf Academy for prizes in their recently hosted Caribbean Connection International Golf tournament in Tobago by the Ministry of Sports and Sports Company of Trinidad and Tobago and was not honoured and on the heels of that is the news that funds for the 2010 and 2011 Tobago International Cycling Classic has not been honoured by the Ministry of Sports.

London was recently informed via a letter from Jeffrey Charles, coordinator for one of the biggest international cycling event in the Caribbean, the Tobago International Cycle Classic, that they were unable to honour their payments to a number of agencies including the World renowned ESPN sports station that covered the event in 2011 and has already shown it to viewers around the world.

Following is a press release from the Chief Secretary's Office on the issue:

"The Ministry of Sport has reneged on its promise to provide $.5 million in support of the Tobago International Cycling Classic held in Tobago last year.

Jeff Charles, coordinator of the event informed THA Chief Secretary Orville London by letter that he has been "getting a major run around from the Minister of Sport with the Ministry of Sport disbursement" of the promised funds.

Charles said the Ministry of Sport had also reneged on its 2010 promise and noted that international sporting network, ESPN which taped the 2011 event and showed it worldwide on its television channel had not yet been paid along with other event providers.

London described this development as "unbelievable, outrageous and extremely irresponsible to say the least, especially with so much at stake for Tobago".

The disclosure has come on the heels of the reneging of the Ministry of Sport and the Sport Company of T&T to meet its commitment to share the remaining contribution of $528,000 in prize money along with the Tourism Development Company (TDC) in the recent 2012 Tobago Junior Golf Academy International Golf Tournament. The THA had to foot the entire $528,000 in prize money to the international golfers.

London said he was becoming very concerned as to what he considered to be a very insensitive approach by the Ministry of Sport and to a certain extent the Sport Company of T&T in relationship to the sponsorship of Tobago events that have an international flavour and to a lack of response to what he considered a genuine concern by Tobago sporting organisations which have been embarrassing.

The Chief Secretary said it was a major embarrassment to the Tobago Cycling Classic management and can have a very negative impact on the event and for Tobago. "This is strange behaviour taken by the Honourable Minister of Sport to renege on the Ministry's commitment in 2010 and is now attempting to do the same for the 2011, Charles told London in his letter."

London said the two events were carrying Tobago into an area where there were significant benefits that can come to the island and therefore it was unconscionable that for $500,000 "we can jeopardise a potential that could run into tens of thousands of dollars".

He added: "I really want to urge those who make the decisions in the Ministry that it is either they don't make the decisions for support or if they make the decisions to support, regardless of the circumstances they honour the commitment, deal with the punishment after, deal with the concerns after, but you cannot make a commitment, have people make commitments to sporting organisations, to sportsmen and sportswomen, especially sportsmen and sportswomen coming outside of Trinidad and Tobago and then these commitments are not being met because we just arbitrarily change our mind, it is not good business and that does nothing for the reputation of Tobago."

London said he will be speaking with the organisers of the event and the Ministry of Sport to deal with the situation.

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