Sat | Sep 23, 2017

Give Champs Big Three more tickets

Published:Friday | January 22, 2016 | 1:00 AM

A few days ago, The Gleaner carried a story where the old boy hierarchy of Calabar, Jamaica College and Kingston College were asking for more grandstand tickets for the Saturday at Champs. Saturday's tickets for Champs have long been the most difficult item to acquire of any ticket in local sports.

It's standard that every year, patrons will complain bitterly about the inability to get grandstand tickets for Saturday's finale. ISSA comes out with the same platitudes. It's like a scratched record. The organisers will say tickets for the Saturday are scarce because the grandstand holds only 5,000 or so, and 40 or 50 per cent of that will go to sponsors and specially invited guests, and the rest are in great demand and sold on a first-come, first-served basis.

They need not give new interviews every year on this topic. All ISSA needs to do is tell the media houses to look into their archives and replay the tapes. Many have long been sceptical of the ticket allocations, but that hasn't changed anything. That whole scenario is as much a prelude to Champs as schoolboys squaring off physically in the Half-Way Tree bus park in the week leading up to the big event!

With Champs weeks away, The Big Three believe they contribute more to Champs than some other schools and are, therefore, entitled to preferential treatment regarding tickets for the big day.The spectacle called Champs is not merely a high-school track and field event. The powerful subtheme of Champs is how these three schools will match up. The other schools form the backdrop, which is important in any painting, but the frontal focus is on Calabar, KC and JC.

People with whom I have spoken about this say there is also an intense rivalry among Holmwood, Edwin Allen and Vere, in modern times, on the female side. It's true, but the female rivalry is not the real drawing card. Take the Big Three out of Champs and the whole event would lose its oomph and significance. People who feel that Champs would still see blockbuster crowds without these three are wrong. The athletics troika are responsible for a huge chunk of ISSA'S Champs revenue.

Do the Big Three have a point then? Should they receive special treatment? One man said to me that this is one piece of "outa-orderness!" Others feel the arrogance of Calabar, KC and JC is spiralling out of control. I'm not coming down as hard on the them because their request is not as unfair as some may think.

I digress. A few months ago, India, England and Australia made a similar proposal to cricket's governing body, the ICC. These three countries, depending on which figures you believe, are responsible for anywhere between 60 and 80 per cent of the money that comes into the coffers of the ICC. India, in particular, is responsible for a large portion of that. These countries argued, successfully in the end, that they should receive a larger portion of the monies made from ICC events and should not receive the same as some countries that essentially contribute little or nothing. I had agreed with these countries.

The principle of 'he who pays the piper calls the tune' is not lost on me. Champs is not merely a high school track and field meet. Sure, the National Stadium, every year, becomes an arena for thousands of teenagers to display their talent in front of a doting audience. They use this event to help get scholarships, and many of them go on to become high-class athletes.

I understand all that, but Champs is more than that. It's also an economic enterprise that generates huge money to ISSA. The organisation depends on these students to pull people through the gates, and the Big Three are central to that process.

Calabar, JC and KC argue that they spend millions to ensure their programme continues to flourish, which, by extension, adds to the interest and intrigue of Champs. The least they deserve is a few extra tickets that, say, a school like Manning's wouldn't get. I have very little difficulty with this - as long as their requests for a few extra tickets isn't unreasonable.

- Orville Higgins is a talk-show host and sportscaster at KLAS ESPN Sports FM. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.