The hot-button issue surrounding the Pacific Games Council revising its charter and in the process adopting stricter eligibility requirements is expected to continue later this month when the Micronesian Games Council convenes on Saipan.
Northern Marianas Amateur Sports Association president Michael White said there is a possibility that the Micronesian Games Council may also review its charter and as a result may adopt new eligibility requirements for participants of the Games.
“I should note that the subject of the review and possible revision of the Micronesian Games charter [including its eligibility provisions] will come before the Council when it meets during the Micronesian Games later this month. I would not be surprised to see changes in the Micronesian Games charter eligibility rule in the future,” he said.
On the matter of the Pacific Games Council limiting athletes in future Games to only citizens of the island nations they are representing, longtime Saipan sports organizer and current executive secretary of the 6th Micronesian Games Organization Committee Bill Sakovich said there’s no other choice but to adhere to the new eligibility requirement.
“That’s the rule. International federations have already that eligibility rule implemented,” he said, adding that the reason why the Northern Marianas Islands Football (Soccer) Federation has asked that only U.S. passport holders try out for their competition in Beijing, China next month in obvious adherence to the rules set by the East Asia Football Federation and FIFA.
“The Pacific Games Council basically for its own sake, like the Olympics, adopts everything the international federations have adopted. Otherwise the international federations would say ‘we’re not going to let you play then. We won’t sanction any of your sports unless you follow our rules,’” he said.
White seconded Sakovich when he said, “I am well aware of the concerns expressed by many international federations that the Pacific Games eligibility rules were inconsistent with their own rules. The new Pacific Games eligibility rule will bring the Pacific Games more into line with the rules,” he said.
Sakovich said no question the CNMI and other small island nation would be hard hit by the new rule.
“It’s a problem for us, Guam, and American Samoa, specifically because we don’t have that many people. We’ve so many transients that are non-U.S. citizens so it affects us a great deal. Papua New Guinea, Fiji, and the other bigger island nations they have a lot of people. It won’t be a problem for them,” he said.
White said although the new rule, in the short term, will severely handicap sports programs in the CNMI, it will only help it a great deal in the long run.
“The new rule isn’t perfect, but it was something that everyone could live with. It will cause hardships in individual cases, but it will ultimately reduce disputes over eligibility and promote the development of sports in the Pacific Islands.”
He said the provision ultimately adopted by the Pacific Games Council was the recommendation of the Charter Review Committee.
“No other proposals were brought before the Council. I believe that the Council recognized the long and thoughtful process that led up to the Committee’s recommendation; that no rule could possibly make everyone happy; and that—as I said above—while the new rule isn’t perfect, it is reasonable,” he said.
Sakovich said as far back as 1981 when he was part of the South Pacific Games Council, he and his fellow delegates spent an extra three days working on eligibility rules.
“It’s been discussed in the South Pacific Games for the past many years and has been revised and revised and will now take effect next year in Apia, Samoa,” he said.
On the issue of the new eligibility requirement taking effect immediately next year when a number of sports federations have already started training, White said he could only sympathize with the athletes and their sports federations.
“The Games are more than a year away. I appreciate the fact that some people may already have started training, and while I share their disappointment that they will not be able to compete in Samoa, there will be many other opportunities for them,” he said.