Tue | Sep 19, 2017

Foster's Fairplay: Questions on athletes' insurance

Published:Tuesday | December 22, 2015 | 12:03 PM

THE LONG-AWAITED government announcement to the sporting community has finally arrived. From what is – at this early stage – understood from the release, athletes from all disciplines will enjoy insurance coverage for expenses incurred in connection with their participation at various levels.

Clearly, much more is to be said, and as such, Foster’s Fairplay’s comments are limited to what is in the public arena. A list of the benefits and the administration thereof are among that which remains unknown.

Critics will bemoan the fact that this most welcome move came only after the sad loss of two high school athletes – one a footballer and the other a cross country runner.

Given the inordinate length of time that such a scheme was said to be ‘in the pipelines’, this thought could be a major cause of concern.

Must there always be a tragedy, as each incident brought to the fore, to trigger the right decision from responsible parties?

That aside and given that two insurance outfits have accepted the proposals, there is a lot to acknowledge and be temporarily satisfied. Total contentment must be put on hold until there is a full declaration.

The government spokesperson, Minister Sandrea Falconer, in delivering the message, mentioned the existence of some “grey areas”.

Make that a darker hue, Mademoiselle Minister. There are some terms cited that beg clarification. This columnist has some discomfort with “current athletes” and “in a programme representing Jamaica” – both criteria for compensation-eligibility. Those, together with an addition “as far as I know”, are due further scrutiny and analysis.

What is meant by “current athletes”?

Confusion hovers as when does an athlete cease to be current and thus, since it is one of the “specific criteria” become ineligible?

In any given sport, an individual, dependent on form or condition, makes a team at any level, say in 2010. He or she then loses the necessary edge to qualify and is not selected for three-four years. Does that athlete during the down period lose currency? (no pun intended).

Also, does this “current” status expire only when an athlete announces his or her retirement? Few do publicly, and fewer will in the future, if the benefit is deemed to be career-lasting.

One can also envisage the definition of “athlete” brought into the maze of uncertainty. Will Queen’s Counsel Ian Wilkinson have to make a case for the inclusion of his chess people?

Again, according to the minister, to be considered for coverage, athletes must be “in a program representing Jamaica”.

This would mean that the situation with poor Rushane Ricketts, the Jamaica College (JC) Manning Cup prospect, who left us while training with his school team in a pre-season competition, would receive no consideration.

Would this clause also rule against the country’s (upgrade that to the World’s) king and queen of sprinting, Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, while they are campaigning on the professional circuit?

With the hefty fees plus bonuses on offer for appearance, one can envisage a resounding “NO”.

Bearing in mind all these smart agents around, watch out for a big court case if that ‘ugly head is ever reared’.

Lastly, Foster’s Fairplay finds it ludicrous that the minister could employ the words “as far as I know” in illustrating a point on criteria for eligibility.

This hint of hesitancy – or could it be a reluctance to tell it like it is – is discomforting. Surely, the matter is either one way or the other. If it is not part of the script, there is need for clarity or explanation.

It is accepted that this is merely the toddler stage. There is time for fine-tuning and the ironing out of creases. Jamaica’s athletes are a special breed.

They have tickled our fancy and have produced moments of ecstasy over time. Half-Way Tree Square at global events sprint finals and the historic qualification for the 1998 FIFA World Cup Finals spring immediately to mind.

Let us get it right for them.