Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Change Philippine sports from top to bottom

Change Philippine sports from top to bottom
by rick olivares

There’s clamor for change at the top of the Philippine Olympic Committee.

Great. But why stop there?

If there is going to be bloodletting, then all national sports agencies should be evaluated as well. It’s also at that level where there are a multitude of problems. All these NSAs should be reviewed for – and not in particular order -- their performance, short and long term grassroots and national programs, transparency, leadership, and accountability.

How many of them have long serving officers who seem to have perpetuated themselves in power? Are they providing the kind of leadership that is necessary for the sport? What have they accomplished? How is their organization structured? Do they even have a database of their athletes? What failsafe programs are in place for change and that their efforts aren’t some feeder program for certain padrinos they have?

In cleaning up a corrupt body or agency, it isn’t only changing the one on top but those below. The micro-level? That is where it all starts too.

In order to prevent “old boy networks” or “utang ng loob”, all NSAs should be evaluated by an independent body that has no affiliation whatsoever with the people in local sports. Now that’s tough since everyone has to belong to something, knows this person and that, is an alma mater of this school, or what have you. But I am sure you will be able to find people who will be objective and who only have the best of intentions.

Our reports in the Business Mirror and posts on my blog, Bleachers Brew, about the problems football greatly helped take down the former president of the Philippine Football Federation. We’ve also gone to battle against some collegiate leagues for improprieties. While we’ve won a lot of battles, I must say that it is never fun exposing corruption and people doing the wrong thing. But the results? They have been good. And that is why they call it “the good fight.”

Now for the NSA’s, the criteria for evaluation must be clear and measurable. Reports shouldn’t only be on paper but with tangible proof that such programs, events, number of athletes participating are on hand. It is good to have checks and balances in place that should put them on their toes at all times.

In an interview with PSC Commissioner Ramon Fernandez, he bared that all NSAs are being checked from their SEC papers to other concerns. “I know one NSA had its SEC papers revoked. In fact, we are having it checked as all others are,” said the Cebu-based commissioner. “We will soon identify the well run NSA’s, the athletes with potential, the sporting activities and grassroots programs that need support.”

“The erring ones? Magbago na sila or bumaba na sila while there’s time,” warned the man who was known as “El Presidente” during his basketball playing days. “We are serious about cleaning up sports.”

While interference in the national Olympic Committee and any other NSA is frowned upon by the International Olympic Committee and could lead to wholescale suspension, if it is necessary to cure the sickness that has inflicted Philippine sports for decades, then it’s not such a bad recourse. For too long have we as a people wondered what went wrong after a major tournament and in spite of the learnings, nothing has really changed.

There are other options for national athletes to participate but these paths must be navigated with diplomacy and skill. But no compromise in my opinion. At most, we can only speculate about any possible repercussions.

It is most unfortunate that such things have to be put in motion or even called for. But it is a must. Let those who have harmed their respective sports be outed and felled by the wayside. They have had their day in the sun.

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