Athletes must reach “standard” before government offers funding, PM says

    Tongan athletes who represent Tonga in international sport must reach a certain standard before the government helps them financially, Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva has announced.

    Hon. Pohiva said this was a new policy set up by his Sports Department to make sure Tonga sent only the best to international sport competitions.

    He said this was how other countries selected their athletes and he wanted Tonga to follow suit.

    Hon. Pohiva said there had been big problems in the past because Tonga selected its athletes without making sure they could perform to the international standard.

    He said the poor performance of Tongan athletes during the recent South Pacific Games in Papua New Guinea proved his point.

    The Prime Minister said he was not blaming the athletes. It was just that there was no “system” in place in the past to make sure the athletes were qualified.

    He said in this way the government would make sure it did not waste money on sending athletes to compete overseas.

    Lord Nuku challenged the Prime Minister in Parliament and said this was not in line with the government’s announcement that it had cancelled the 2019 Pacific Games so it could spend the money on developing local sports.

    However, Hon. Pohiva said the government had the money and was still willing to support local sports and athletics, but the new policy was to make sure any money spent on sport was justified.

    He said the netball team recently went overseas for three matches and returned without any result.

    With the new policy, the government had recently rejected requests for funding by the Tonga Australian Football and Tonga National Taekwondo federations.

    The Prime Minister said the government assisted the Ikale Tahi’s recent tours, including its game against the Welsh in Auckland in June and Pacific Cups 2017 in Nuku’alofa.

    He said as far as he remembered each ‘Ikale Tahi player received TP$4000 after the tour.

    “Maybe they performed really well during this tour because of the financial support they received from the government,” Hon. Pohiva said.

    Lord Nuku said he was afraid Tongan athletes could not qualify to participate in any international sport competition because of the new standard created by the government.

    Hon. Pohiva said that during the recent Oceania Area Athletics  competition in Fiji a Tongan athlete joined Australian and New Zealand competitors in winning gold medals.

    Hon. Pohiva said the Tongan athlete was the best in the Oceanian sports because he was tested and met the new standard.

    New Director for sport

    The Prime Minister also revealed the cabinet has just approved ‘Ikani Taliai as the new director for a Sports Institute.

    He said Taliai and his assistants were responsible for training and preparing athletes from the lowest to the top levels athletes.

    He said there was a plan for a meeting with TASANOC to see how they could work together with the Sports Institute.

    The Prime Minister said that in the two years since his government came into power they had realised Tongan athletes who were sent to compete in overseas performed very unsatisfactorily (fu’u ta’efakafiemalie ‘aupito).

    A lot of money was spent, but the results were poor because the athletes were not well trained and prepared.

    There were not proper trainers and they went without making sure they could perform to the standard.

    The main points

    • Tongan athletes who represent Tonga in international sport must reach a certain standard before the government helps them financially, Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva has announced.
    • Pohiva said this was a new policy set up by his Sports Department to make sure Tonga sent only the best to international sport competitions.
    • He said there had been big problems in the past because Tonga selected its athletes without making sure they could perform to the international standard.
    • He said the poor performance of Tongan athletes during the recent Commonwealth Games in Papua New Guinea proved his point.

    For more information

    Oceania Athletics Area Championships 2017

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