Two members of the Commonwealth Games Federation are on the island this week at the invitation of the national sporting organisation NISCGA.
Hugh Graham is the Oceania Representative on the Commonwealth Games Federation Board and Richard de Groen is the Development Director from the Commonwealth Management team. Richard is a former New Zealand international cricketer.
Graham explained the reason for their visit is not to conduct an investigation. “I want to clarify, that we are here not to do any investigations. We are here to assist our member which is NISCGA but also to talk to their members if they wish so they can get clarity on issues or concerns that they may have”.
In the lead-up to the last Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in August, NISCGA was embroiled in legal disputes with the Niue Lawn Bowls that went as far as the Niue High Court, over the selection of the lawn bowls team to the games.
This led to an impasse between the national sports body NISCGA and its members which led to the suspension of three sports codes from NISCGA, Niue Weightlifting, Niue Archery and Niue Lawn Bowls.
The situation was made worse with accusations and name-calling on social media between the members of the NISCGA Executive and sports codes damaging the reputation of the sports fraternity on the island.
Prior to the dispute over the selection of Team Niue to the Games, and the attempt to establish a breakaway sports body, there were accusations of misappropriation of funds and expulsion of former members of the NISCGA Executive, all played out on social media.
Graham said that they are aware of the situation between NISCGA and its members, which is not unusual in small sporting communities, recalling the challenges they faced in the Cook Islands but it is important he said to get everyone to the table.
Hugh Graham is no stranger to Niue, having travelled to Niue as a young lad when his grandfather was the Cook Islands’ first Prime Minister Albert Henry who was a close friend of Niue’s first premier, Sir Robert Rex.
“In order to create the solutions to the problems we have here in Niue, we have to accept when we have made a mistake. We have to accept that and say this is where it is. I can see and I know for a fact because a lot of small islands have the same problems and sometimes personalities can get in the way of the bigger picture stuff, which is ‘why are we here?’
Hugh Graham said that leaders are there for the athletes and help them through their respective sports federations but acknowledge that they won’t always see eye to eye.
“We won’t always see eye to eye but we have to acknowledge and agree to disagree on certain areas that we cannot agree together on”
Hugh and Richard have been reaching out to all the different members of NISCGA and asking them to come and talk with them.
“We understand that there’s some hesitancy in meeting us at the office (NISCGA office) and that’s fine, we will meet you wherever you want us to meet. We are here to listen to your concerns but at the end of the day sooner than later, we all need to come around the same table to sort our challenges out”
Meanwhile, Richard Richard de Groen said that he is looking forward to making an announcement at the official opening of the NISCGA office and gym tomorrow about some assistance for the development of the sport in Niue, understanding the limited resources available for the smaller members of the Commonwealth Games family.
He told BCN News that he is not here to bring solutions but he wants to know how they can assist develop capacity in countries like Niue.
“The question is, how do we assist in the development of sport, how do we build capacity in the island within the framework of what you have here.
“Our ears are open and we’re here to absorb as much of that knowledge as we possibly can and to try and assist where we can in relation to creating a family, and a community of sport that’s working together because it’s too small for breakaway groups”.
Richard says that they’ve come to see if they can assist to create a better family for sport, for the athletes of Niue”.
Hugh Graham and Richard de Groen have been meeting with the leaders of the different sports codes and will be leaving on Friday. While their visit may be well-intentioned, it is unlikely the impasse will be resolved this week.
It is not clear at this point if their visit will result in a round table meeting between NISCGA executive and its members. What is clear is that there is still a genuine mistrust between the two factions, those within the NISCGA executive and the rest of the island’s sports community.
BCN News understands there is much anticipation for the next annual general meeting of NISCGA which is planned for February next year.
Over these past few months, the public and athletes have been spectators to some of the worst behaviour of mud-slinging, name calling, and accusations on social media by sports administrators.
At some point, questions have to be asked about the behaviour of sports administrators and how long the public has to endure the embarrassing behaviour displayed on social media.
Perhaps the question that needs to be asked seriously of the sports community is ‘Do you still want to be part of the Commonwealth Games family?”.
The full version of the interview with Hugh Graham and Richard de Groen of the Commonwealth Games Federation will be on TV Niue’s In-depth Interviews’ series on Sunday this week on channel 1 at 8pm.