EPHRAIM SERRETTE, president of the NAAA (National Association of Athletic Administrations), has expressed his organisation’s support towards three-time Olympic medallist Richard Thompson, concerning the sprinter’s desire to get clarity on his application for elite athlete assistance for the fiscal year 2017-2018.
It was reported on Sunday Newsday that the 32-year-old Thompson and Shabbir Mohammed, a sport development associate of the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs, exchanged a series of e-mails over Thompson’s request for elite funding. Thompson expressed displeasure with the manner in which Mohammed addressed him in one of the emails, while Mohammed questioned whether the triple Olympic medallist is still an elite athlete.
Serrette, speaking to Newsday yesterday, said the NAAA endorses Thompson’s application for funding, and explained the NAAA plays a huge role in recommending athletes for elite assistance on an annual basis.
“It comes from us,” Serrette stated. “(The athletes) have to send it through us and it is ratified by the Olympic Committee, and then (it) goes to the Ministry. So we have our part to play.”
He noted, “In the past, there was a direct relationship (between athletes and Ministry) – we had nothing to do with that. When it started, that was how it was supposed to be, but that broke down.”
Serrette insisted the current issue between Thompson and the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs official has nothing to do with the local governing body for track and field as they have already done their duty.
“That has nothing to do with us,” said Serrette. “If we forward the application, clearly we would have supported his application for elite funding. We don’t have to go and justify or tell the Ministry about it.”
He added, “We will do everything to support our athletes, we can only do what we can do.”
Serrette said the NAAA is also heavily reliant on support given from Government.
“Most of the time we depend on Government,” he said. “Our operating budget is about $12 million and the most we can get from Government is two (million dollars).
“We go out there but a lot of the funding we get goes towards high performance, like sending teams to competition, the (National) Championships and those kinds of things. We can get some sponsors and indicate (to them) whether they would want to be involved in things like that, and then we would have some (monetary) support where we can give the athletes.
“At the TTOC (Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee) level, there is some sort of support available. Sometimes the athletes would write to us and we will consult with the TTOC. We try as much as possible to assist how we can but we are not a revenue-driven organisation.”
In related news, Serrette also noted that his organisation is seeking to renew its deal with its major sponsor National Gas Company. The three-year-old deal between both parties ended at the end of 2017.
“We just finished a three-year MOU with National Gas, who was one of our major sponsors,” said Serrette. “We have some (other) sponsors on board for the (various) Championships like Sagicor, Petrotrin, Blue Waters, TSTT, but our major sponsor was the National Gas Company.
Asked if the National Gas Company will be renewing their deal, Serrette replied, “We’re working on that now. We are in the process of renegotiating a renewal.
Efforts to contact Sports Minister Darryl Smith for a comment on the feud between Thompson and the official at his Ministry were futile as calls to his cellphone went unanswered.