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$20m a year! Lewis sets new target for TTOC, admits impact of Thema/Dick controversy

Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC) president Brian Lewis hopes to help the local sporting body to more than double its annual revenue before he vacates office in 2021.

Lewis was elected unopposed this afternoon for his second term at the helm of the TTOC. And, having already set sport fans buzzing with his 10 gold medals by 2024 goal, he set the local Olympic Committee another remarkably ambitious target.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC) president Brian Lewis. (Copyright TTOC)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC) president Brian Lewis.
(Copyright TTOC)

“I want to take the TTOC to TT$20 million a year,” Lewis told Wired868. “I believe the TTOC brand and assets present opportunities in terms of supporting athletes and so on. But to do what we want to do, we can’t only rely on Olympic solidarity for funding.”

The TTOC raised just over TT$9 million a year in 2015 and 2016. He admitted that, last year, they failed to hit their target of TT$12 million in revenue.

“Two of the areas in which we fell short, in my view,” said Lewis, “were the merchandising programme and the monetisation of broadcast and intellectual properties.”

For the first time, Lewis conceded that the fall-out from the TTOC’s decision to take gymnast Marisa Dick to the Rio 2016 Olympics—after the Trinidad and Tobago Gymnastics Federation (TTGF) controversially ruled out Thema Williams—had a negative impact on the local body.

“The TTOC received a significant negative impact from that and, as you recall, there were calls to boycott the TTOC and our initiatives and so on,” he said.

The Dick move, he suggested, might have been comparable to the recent United Airlines furore when the airline forcibly removed a passenger to give his seat to a crew member. The TTOC is wiser now about the “reach and immediacy of social media.”

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago gymnasts Thema Williams (right) and Marisa Dick pose for a photograph while sightseeing in Rio, after the Olympic Test event on 17 April 2016. (Courtesy Hannifer Dick)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago gymnasts Thema Williams (right) and Marisa Dick pose for a photograph while sightseeing in Rio, after the Olympic Test event on 17 April 2016.
(Courtesy Hannifer Dick)

“We took away the harsh lesson that, in everything we are doing in the public space, you must have a risk management assessment and scenario planning,” said Lewis. “On the administrative side, one of the things we have taken away from it most certainly is the TTOC needs to be firmer—and I would even say have a zero tolerance—on selection criteria, which must be publicised and made known.

“One of the things I want to ensure that we are able to do is to have the criteria for [selection for] the various sports available on the TTOC website and on the various sporting organisations’ websites.”

Lewis tried to clear the air on the use of branded uniforms by national athletes too, as the TTOC switched from Adidas to Puma at the start of 2017. Earlier this month, the NAAA warned two sprinters about using old Adidas Trinidad and Tobago uniforms at a meet.

“The TTOC has a contract with Puma [and] therefore no TTOC team in this quadrennial can wear any other thing but Puma,” said Lewis. “So that goes for the the Olympics, Commonwealth, Pan Am and CAC Games. There is no dispute with that.

“Now if you are running at an event on your own and you are wearing a TTOC uniform that may have been from when we were under Adidas, rest assured Puma will contact the TTOC to clarify the situation…”

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago sprinters (from left) Emmanuel Callender, Richard Thompson, Rondell Sorrillo and Keston Bledman compete at the 100 metre final in the NAAA National Open Championships on 25 June 2016 at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain. Thompson won gold at the event followed by Sorrillo, Bledman and Callender respectively. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA Images/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago sprinters (from left) Emmanuel Callender, Richard Thompson, Rondell Sorrillo and Keston Bledman compete at the 100 metre final in the NAAA National Open Championships on 25 June 2016 at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain.
Thompson won gold at the event followed by Sorrillo, Bledman and Callender respectively.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA Images/Wired868)

Lewis pointed to the TTOC’s Athlete Welfare and Preparation Programme as well as their fundraising initiatives, promotion of brand ambassadors and their own rebranding to Team TTO as the highlights of his first term.

“When I was first elected in May 2013, it was a transformation agenda in terms of transforming the TTOC into a market-oriented, service-focused, athlete-centred organisation,” said Lewis. “It is my belief that the modern sport organisation, which is still a member-based, non-profit and even volunteer-based operation, has to strike that balance between non-profit and operating in the business-space, modern environment.

“I remember one of our first staff meetings, I told the staff the TTOC is less about being glorified travel organisers and more about about being a marketing and media organisation.”

Three years ago, Lewis ran against Richard Young for the presidency. He did not put up a slate. This time, he ran unopposed and had virtually handpicked the executive that he feels could accelerate the TTOC’s move down the path he envisions.

He pointed to the strengths of incoming executive members like Giselle La Ronde-West (Angostura public relations and communications manager), Nadine Khan (Valdez and Torry International senior vice-president), Curtis Nero (CARDI chief financial officer) and Racquel Moses (Invest TT former president).

Photo: Giselle La Rode-West competes at the Adults 35 and Over Kata Black Belt competition at the annual New York Open Traditional Karate Do Championships in Westchester Community College, White Plains on 12 October 2014. (Copyright NY Daily News/Hayden Roger Celestin)
Photo: Giselle La Rode-West competes at the Adults 35 and Over Kata Black Belt competition at the annual New York Open Traditional Karate Do Championships in Westchester Community College, White Plains on 12 October 2014.
(Copyright NY Daily News/Hayden Roger Celestin)

La Ronde-West, the 1986 Miss World winner, still competes in karate while Khan and Nero were heavily involved in basketball and rugby respectively.

“I tried for close to 50/50 in terms of male and female [members on the board],” said Lewis. “There was no challenge for me so to speak, so I went out to fill what I perceived to be certain gaps. And I have brought in certain people who I feel can support the transformation agenda.”

TTOC executive committee:

Brian Lewis (president); Dr Terry Ali, Diane Henderson, Ephraim Serrette (vice-presidents); Annette Knott (secretary general); Nadine Khan (assistant secretary general); Curtis Nero (treasurer); Wendell Constantine, Reyah Richardson, Giselle La Ronde-West (executive members), Dave Williams and Racquel Moses (trustees).

Photo: President Brian Lewis (third from right) poses with the new TTOC executive at the TTOC headquarters on 20 April 2017. (Courtesy TTOC)
Photo: President Brian Lewis (third from right) poses with the new TTOC executive at the TTOC headquarters on 20 April 2017.
(Courtesy TTOC)

About Lasana Liburd

Lasana Liburd
Lasana Liburd is the CEO and Editor at Wired868.com and a journalist with over 15 years experience at several local and international publications including Play the Game, World Soccer, UK Guardian and the Trinidad Express.

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36 comments

  1. Comedy central..sorry..northern ..will be opening soon following elections in the TTOC..Please note that a President of a federation has been elevated to the executive following his vice-president’s decision to probably follow a career in broadcasting..Here’s to 10 Olympic golds..

  2. Former beauty queens can contribute a lot.

  3. plain talk, this TTOC line up is comprised of highly competent individuals with valuable skills in their sectors. This is not a “Bredrin Network” solution to funding and management. This team is about building the #TeamTTO brand and finances of the organisation. Handpicked though they may be, these people are not henpecked.

  4. i baffles me that the TTOC getting knocked for being outmaneuvered on the Dick move. Bottom line is that the TTGF knew what they wee doing; TTOC got sound legal advice and avoided exposure to potentially massive litigation and financial risk.
    But THAT aint the main issue.
    The main issue that was sidestepped was why, in an Olympic year, were the funds down on expectations? Not enough attention is being paid to this CANOC/CBI management of the Rio broadcast rights and the connection between the primary financial issues under this arrangement.

  5. Hmmmm it took the derailment of an athlete to decide that next time they should be firmer in their decision making and have zero tolerance? They didn’t understand that before??????

  6. The fact that he was re-elected unopposed helps me manage my expectations.

  7. Totally agree. Like building a high way it’s real purpose was for industry however . It’s just a ego thing .

  8. It’s La Ronde-West he say…. but then again it took them ridiculously long to recognize that “The Dick move”, had a grave negative impact on team morale and country support, and that there could be major implications that reach and immediacy of social media could cause, so maybe I have to wait again for that clarity.

  9. We need to stop funding the association and start funding the athletes.

  10. It only took how long for him to admit this. And what of the now mythical Clause 13?

  11. Doh. Make. Joke.
    Steups. Rhoda Bharath Calisa Paulson

  12. Once you say “and so on” I am turned off…. Give us results! Lay out a comprehensive plan! Expound upon TTOC performance improvement process! Give us periodic data-rich reports on progress or status of ‘your’ 2024 goal (s). I emphasize YOUR because I am not convinced that current and upcoming athletes, coaches etc believe in or are motivated enough to assure that goal is achieved. You know what, lemme go sleep eh.