The Nationalist Party
A small country like Malta will always face challenges in the sports sector for various reasons including the lack of human resources and the investment needed.
Notwithstanding the fact that other countries – including those with a small population – managed to make a success in various sport, reality is that Malta faces a different scenario as apart from our small size we are also an island.
Above all, if we want to make a paradigm shift towards professional sports, we need to change our mentality. If those involved in sports keep on considering sports and approach it from an amateurish perspective rather than the professional side, this sector will continue to be tied to the old mentality that has hampered its development to date in our country.
The shift toward professional sport must be linked with sustainability. The fact is that sports in Malta is not generating enough financing to sustain itself.
For example football is being sustained by a number of club presidents that personally finance their clubs, otherwise it would have faced a drastic decline in terms of activity. Without such club presidents and the few sponsors they manage to attract, Maltese football would be doomed.
This is because football activity is not generating income for the clubs, gate money is minimal with some exceptions, sponsors are scarce and television rights limited. Therefore, income is not enough to sustain the clubs, especially when expenses incurred by the clubs are sky high impacting their sustainability.
It is for this reason that the law of sports marketing is vital and essential.
This legislation permits the football and waterpolo clubs to enter into partnership with the private sector and commercialise their facilities to raise funds.
If used well, this law could be a catalyst for Maltese sport but due attention must be paid for the type of foreign and local investment attracted towards the clubs as well as the consortia being formed to sustain this investment.
It is vital to look at Maltese sport from a professional perspective
The situation in Maltese sport is that clubs invest their resources only in sport but not in administration.
Lack of space is one of the major problems why Malta can never compete with other countries that have large sports facilities. This explains why this country has not deve-loped the training camps sector so far and why big clubs are not choosing Malta for their training camps here.
The fact that Malta lacks training ground with natural grass makes it difficult to attract this investment.
This could be a new and effective niche for the local economy. Nobody can blame Maltese youths who choose to continue their studies when they reach the age of 16 because Maltese sport still fails to offer the necessary stability needed to choose sport as a career. This is happening despite the fact that sports can also offer good salaries that supersede those offered by established private companies.
It is therefore vital to look at Maltese sport from a professional perspective. This should be done by taking the necessary steps to attract the much needed investment through which professional athletes can obtain positive results that honour our country.
The Democratic Party
Let’s start by discussing how essential the promotion of sport is to this country.
Malta consistently registers the highest rate of child obesity in the world. This is not only due to dietary habits, it is mainly because we have become a sedentary nation and proportionally very few children take an active and regular part in sports.
The habits acquired when young, along with obesity, are often taken into adulthood. This leads to health and mobility problems at a relatively young age, such as diabetes, arthritis and high blood pressure.
Even not taking into account the personal effect of obesity, the cost to the State, both in healthcare provision and loss of productivity due to chronic illness, is enormous.
It therefore pays the State, in the long term, to promote and actively push participation in sport.
The more sports a child does, the better is that child’s academic achievement
Is it successful in that goal?
Sport has been and remains the Cinderella in our education system. While there has been a considerable improvement in the quality of sports facilities in Malta, especially in State-run schools, the same cannot be said of sports education and its status within schools.
Very little time is dedicated to sports, both as regards time allocation during lesson periods, and outside them, during breaks and after school.
There is still the mind-set that time spent on sport activities is wasted time that could be better utilised on formal schooling. The peer pressure on and by parents, with our education system still heavily based on continuous assessment by examinations, does not help.
Even after a full day of lessons children, even at a young age, are often subjected to yet more lessons after school, a practice which is completely frowned upon by some countries.
The irony is that it has been proven time and again that the more sports a child does, all other things being equal, the better is that child’s academic achievement. So what needs to be done?
The answer is education, education and education.
We need to educate the educators that sport is an essential part of a child’s psychological and physical development.
We need to educate parents that the time their children spend practising sport is not wasted and is indeed a great investment in their future.
We need to educate children to consider sport, the physical effort involved in it, and the self-discipline that is essential to its practise to be to their benefit.
And, most importantly, we also need the State to educate itself so that it learns and understands that a nation on the move, not sedentary but physically active, is a nation that will achieve greater things in the future.
The Labour Party failed to send their contribution in time for publication.
If you would like to put any questions to the parties in Parliament send an e-mail marked clearly Question Time to email@example.com.
This is a Times of Malta print opinion piece
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