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Sports club hit back at UBP

By Colin Zuill, GazetteNET News, Friday 18 February 2000

Shadow Education Minister Tim Smith came under fire from the Island's two biggest sports bodies and their affiliates yesterday.

The Bermuda Cricket Board of Control and the Bermuda Football Association demanded a full apology from the former Youth and Sport Minister for his claims in the House of Assembly last week that local clubs were "benefiting" from the sale of drugs on their grounds.

Among those present at the conference were presidents of BFA Neville Tyrrell, who is also PLP general secretary, and Government MP El James, president of BCBC. Several club executives were also present.

The gathering took place after the two bodies had met with club affiliates on Wednesday night to discuss their concerns.

Yesterday, they unleashed their fury at Mr. Smith, in particular, but also took aim at UBP MP John Barritt - a former Sports Minister - and current Shadow Sports Minister Patricia Gordon-Pamplin .

"We as sports bodies were attacked over the weekend collectively and as you can see we are not happy with that," said Tyrrell.

In a press release, the BFA and BCBC claimed Mr. Smith's remarks offended many young people and adults involved in the clubs, as well as parents, sponsors and Government.

"What really is disturbing is that everybody should realise that the clubs have not been able to benefit from the sale of drugs. If anything, they have been hurt and continue to suffer as a result of it and hence the attendance at games is down along with membership and general participation within the club," said James.

"It is obvious that Mr. Smith's claim is unfounded. If he came around the clubs he would see that the clubs have been hit over the years. Most have done something about it and the dealers and users have gone outside on the perimeters. y "Naturally, at some of the games there is some drug involvement, but if you go to a huge festival or any other kind of gathering you are going to have some type of drugs within that mass collection.

"But it is clear that the clubs have been hurt by all of this drug situation and for Mr. Smith to come up with his claim has caused the affiliates and us to feel as though we all have been slandered by his remarks.

"Unless he can name clubs who have benefited, we are calling for a public apology." Last night, Tim Smith, John Barritt and Pat Gordon-Pamplin released a statement which asked when, previously, had the BFA and BCBC issued "such a far- reaching statement about drug abuse?".

The statement said they had no recollection of that ever happening "in the history of the two sports in Bermuda".

Mr. Smith said: "We think this is an important milestone for Bermuda and we applaud both organisations for displaying the courage and expressing the commitment to do something about drug use in and around sports grounds."

Pat Gordon-Pamplin added: "The fact that the BFA and BCBC made this declaration, we feel the debate on the state of sport in Bermuda last Friday was not made in vain.

"While the commitment expressed is an important first step, we want to see more active steps taken to eradicate drugs from our sports grounds. After all, talk is cheap."

And John Barritt said: "It doesn't escape our notice that the head of both the BFA and BCBC perform key functions within the PLP, one as an MP and the other as a campaign committee member.

"Their statement was politically motivated. It really doesn't help the drug problem for the two organisations to attack the messengers."

Yesterday's conference was called after club affiliates approached the BFA and BCBC following a meeting at Social Club on Wednesday night.

That meeting was attended by 37 representatives.

Yesterday they released a statement which read: y "We are angry and enraged that remarks were made by a former Minister of Sport that football and cricket clubs are benefiting from drugs. Whilst this statement is completely untrue and flies in the face of all that sports clubs do, the statements are offensive to us for many reasons.

"The remarks offend the many young people of Bermuda involved in our clubs; the many adults of Bermuda involved in our clubs; the many spectators who support our programmes; the many parents who support our programmes; the many sponsors who fund our programmes; the Government who help fund our programmes; and the Bermudian people generally.

"We are further disheartened that Mr. John Barritt MP, another former Minister of Sport who is always specially invited by the BFA to football games and by the BCBC to cricket games at club grounds and does attend and enjoys our hospitality without complaint, would associate himself with such inaccurate remarks.

"We are completely at a loss of how Ms Gordon-Pamplin would express such views when we can find no record of her involvement in any our football or cricket clubs at any time.

"Mr. Smith will know first hand of our efforts when he was Minister about the problems of drugs in sports. He will also know that football and cricket have been the leading sports bodies behind the drug-free policies that have been adopted in sport.

"Mr. Smith will also know of the limited support from his ministry over the last 30 years when we were constantly trying to improve our facilities.

"One has just got to look at truly successful club programmes who still don't have physical premises (for example) North Village, Devonshire Colts etc.

"We are hoping that Mr. Smith has not left his microphone on again and is merely speaking off the cuff.

"For these reasons we encourage these Members of Parliament to step outside of their Parliamentary privilege enjoyed in the House and name the clubs that they feel benefit from drugs. If they can't, we demand an apology from them to the members, clubs, children and people of Bermuda, or at the least an admission that these claims cannot be substantiated."