Grading Grange - ‘Babsy’ finds favour among sporting associations, stakeholders ahead of Cabinet confirmation
With Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange expected to return as minister of sport when Prime Minister Andrew Holness completes his Cabinet, three sporting figures have shared varying views about her previous stint in the role.
In Grange’s last four and a half years as sport minister, she carried out a number of projects which sought to address athlete welfare.
This includes the creation of an athletes’ insurance scheme, which provides basic group health, life, and personal accident coverage for beneficiaries age six to 70, who are members of a national association or federation. Grange said that her ministry spent over $5 million in premium payments monthly on the plan.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, as athletes prepared for the Tokyo Olympic Games, which was set for July to August this year, Grange also announced that the ministry would provide $20,000 per week for athletes preparing to compete.
Grange’s tenure is also remembered for the creation of statues for Olympians Usain Bolt, Veronica Campbell-Brown, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, and Asafa Powell, which were all mounted at Statue Park at the National Stadium, as one of the Government’s Legacy Projects.
Sports publicist Tanya Lee says she found these projects by Grange to be “heartening” and that the minister has done what she describes as “a good job”.
“Medical payments do add up and access to affordable healthcare is crucial, especially when you look beyond the elite pool of athletes, many of whom have financial challenges,” Lee said. “To be afforded coverage across life, health, personal injury, and even maternity, is commendable.
“As someone who works with athletes, I have personally found her quite accessible, and she has gone the extra mile on a number of occasions where I have had unique challenges, so I would say she has created an enabling environment. I would unreservedly support her reappointment and I look forward to the completion of the work she started with the Commonwealth Secretariat in measuring the contribution of sports to the national GDP (gross domestic product). I believe sports makes a significant contribution to the Jamaican economy, and so more money should be earmarked for the ministry.”
Grange has also done work to develop sports infrastructure across the island, which, most notably, includes the resurfacing of the running track at the Stadium East Complex in Kingston, but there were still some areas, which she promised to address, that have still not been completed.
The National Stadium is one such venue, where renovation has been promised since 2016, but has yet to start. The Sligoville Stadium is still largely underused for sporting activity, and the Montego Bay Sports Complex is still in need of a new running track.
Grange told The Gleaner in December 2017 that the ministry will also pledge funds to research on traumatic head injuries in sport, but there had since been no further development in this regard.
Grange’s role as sport minister is also shared with her role as minister of culture, entertainment, and gender affairs. But former Professional Football Association of Jamaica Chairman Don Anderson, who is also a pollster and political commentator, says he does not think that the promises by the sport ministry that were not achieved are because of Grange having to split her focus in four directions.
“The truth of the matter is that she has done exceedingly well in all four,” Anderson said. “I want to see her continue in sports. In terms of culture and entertainment, she would’ve done a good job as the ideally suited person. But I think gender affairs could probably be somebody else.
“If it’s anyone of the four, they might want to add gender affairs to somebody else, because they have sufficient women in the [Jamaica Labour] Party right now [so] that they can choose someone else for that. Gender affairs is not the least of the four, but if she’s considering that that was a contributory factor to her not achieving all her goals, gender affairs could be given to another female.”
Former Cricket West Indies President Dave Cameron says that should Grange return to Holness’ Cabinet, her ministry must engage the private sector more to invest in sports teams and associations.
“One of the things I’ve advocated for, for years now, is a tax-incentive programme for persons who invest in sports and entertainment, like there is in Trinidad and Tobago,” Cameron said. “What it does is, it gives you tax breaks if you invest in sporting infrastructure or a programme or a team. This is why Trinidad has a more vibrant sporting industry than we do and that’s something we need to look at.”
There are 44 associations recognised by the Ministry of Sport, and the majority of those polled by The Gleaner have said they would welcome Grange’s return to the ministry.