Coro, August 3rd 2011 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – This Tuesday the Venezuelan National Assembly officially approved the country’s new “Sport, Physical Education and Activity Law” after having reached a consensus on three contested articles within the legislation.
The new sports law seeks to promote increased participation in sporting activities as well as to “democratise” access to sport and to regulate sponsorship within the Venezuelan sports industry.
United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) Representative Robert Serra highlighted that the legislation will obligate sponsorship organisations to support all of the nation’s sports as opposed to just the most profitable ones.
“We don’t have anything against sponsorship, we simply want to increase the possibility of that sponsorship extending to other sports” said Serra.
Article 66 of the law allows for the creation of a “national sports fund”, which will be financed by taxes from private and public sponsorship organisations whose profits exceed over 1.5 million Bolivars annually (US$350,000).
The funding body will be used to further promote all sports throughout the country and to finance sports programmes and projects. An initial payment of 20 million Bolivars (US$475,000) to the fund was approved by the government yesterday.
A number of Venezuelan athletes participated in preliminary discussion of the law on June 6th and were able to make proposals with regards to the legislation. Many reported that they were pleased with yesterday’s outcome.
“We have a new sports and physical education law. Long live Venezuela. Congratulations to all my sporting colleagues” said Formula One race driver Pastor Maldonado on his twitter account.
Amongst other benefits, Venezuelan athletes, trainers and sports arbitrators will now have the right to elect their board of directors in Venezuela’s sports federations and will also receive social security.
“I like everything. It seems to really take into account the athlete in allowing us to elect our own officials. It’s excellent. Also, the fund to support those sports that are not as well funded is really good for us, those of us who lack advertising support” said Venezuelan badminton player Leidy Tovar.
Controversy and Federation Backlash
Whilst 77 of the law’s 80 articles were passed unanimously by the National Assembly, the three articles relating to the election of officials and control over sponsorship were disputed by members of the “Democratic Unity Roundtable” (MUD), a coalition of Venezuela’s opposition parties.
Although amendments were made to article 66 of the legislation, both the Venezuelan opposition and sporting federations expressed dissatisfaction with the legislation, and criticised the regulations on sponsorship particularly.
Miguel Pizarro of the “Podemos” party in Táchira stated that the Venezuelan opposition had fought to “eliminate the most dangerous regulations” within the legislation and had succeeded in preventing “greater damage.”
“Thanks to that fight, the overbearing tax of 1% on total profit was reduced to a tax of 1% after tax” said Pizarro, speaking of the taxes imposed on sponsorship organisations to fund the nation’s new sport’s fund.
On hearing that the law had been approved, José Grasso Vecchio, president of the Venezuelan Professional Baseball League, called an emergency meeting with representatives of the country’s eight teams.
“I strongly insist that without free sponsorship, we’re not doing very well…We are not asking much, just that they leave us in peace” said Vecchio.
World football governing body, FIFA, echoed Vecchio’s discontent with the law, stating that it could be construed as a “direct interference” by the government in “affairs that are exclusive to the VFV” (Venezuelan Football Federation).
The Chávez administration has invested significantly to promote participation in sports throughout the country and has consistently emphasised the importance of sport in human development. Government social programmes aim to provide access to sporting facilities and activities in communities; especially within the nation’s schools and poorer neighbourhoods. More recently the government held a national sports competition for flood victims living in government refuges.
Since the creation of the Venezuelan Sports Ministry in 2006, Venezuela has also made considerable progress in the international sporting arena, doing particularly well in this year’s Latin American football tournament, the Copa Americana, making it into the semi-finals for the first time. Venezuela also took home a bronze medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympics and came second in this year’s ALBA games (Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of our America).
“We’re getting really great results, and all thanks to the policies being developed by the National Executive, which has allowed this generation to become a golden generation, and has converted Venezuela into an immense sporting power” said Oswaldo Vera of the PSUV party.