Sat | Feb 22, 2020

Editorial | Bowled by Tallawahs

Published:Tuesday | September 11, 2018 | 12:00 AM

It is neither an obligation nor the responsibility of governments, and certainly not Jamaica's, to invest in, or subsidise, the operations of private businesses to ensure their profitability. And this is especially so if such enterprises are of neither strategic security nor socio-economic value to the country.

The Jamaica Tallawahs cricket franchise clears none of those thresholds. It, therefore, can make no claims on taxpayers' money. The Government, but for the event of a far more compelling case than the one thus far publicly flogged, mustn't acquiesce to any wheedling, attempted blackmail by public shaming, or any other form of pressure to put money into this venture.

We, of course, have no evidence that there is a specific effort to wring taxpayers' money out of the Government. But, given the signs, we are just issuing a warning.

The Jamaica Tallawahs are one of six teams franchised by the Caribbean Premier League (CPL), a private promoter of Twenty20 games sanctioned by Cricket West Indies, the governing body for the sport in the Caribbean. While it carries the name' Jamaica' and ostensibly plays 'home' matches, or some of them, at Sabina Park, it is not a national team. Its squad is made up of players from Jamaica, other parts of the West Indies, and elsewhere across the cricket world.

The team is owned by an outfit called Worldwide Sports Management Group, controlled by Florida-based businessman Kris Persaud, who acquired the team last year from Dallas, Texas-based Indian businessmen Manish Patel and Ron Parik, who are principals in a food and leisure group, Chalak Mitra.

Not long before Mr Persaud acquired the Tallawahs, he inked a deal with Central Broward Recreational Park in the city of Lauderhill, Florida, to be the exclusive promoter of cricket at that venue. This year, the ground hosted three of the Jamaica Tallawahs' five 'home' games. Two were played at Sabina Park.

Without the financial details of Mr Persaud's cricket operations, there is a certain sense to having some of the Tallawahs' games played in Florida. He gets to host matches at the ground where he has exclusive rights to promote cricket, without actually relocating the franchise and incurring the financial penalty that could come, based on the original terms of the CPL franchise, with moving a team to the USA or Canada.


Mission creep


There are, however, suggestions that this may be mission creep - that the Tallawahs might relocate to Florida unless they get additional support from the Jamaican Government, which, according to Sports Minister Olivia Grange, has given J$7 million in support to CPL and Tallawahs over the past two years. The team's owners haven't themselves made a public case for more government cash, but CPL's CEO, Pete Russell, left no doubt about the manoeuvrings and of the "definite possibility" that a move could happen.

"We love playing in Jamaica, but there is a huge demand for CPL to play games in other countries," he told this newspaper. "We will continue to look to the US market, as it makes sense to do so."

Mr Russell said that CPL and the Tallawahs "bring a lot in terms of investments and social benefits" to the countries in which they play. They perhaps do. However, while we have heard of the financial contributions of the CPL tournament to the region, we are yet to see the independent and academically rigorous analyses of this economic impact.

We would wish to have the Tallawahs based in Jamaica, bringing the enjoyment of sport and helping to promote the country. But by doing so, the team's owners also get to exploit the Jamaican brand.

Further, if Jamaica were awash with cash, throwing some money at a franchised team might be okay. However, we can't support, as it would be, a socialisation of costs and the privatisation of profit. In that case, it would be better to subsidise sugar, which we are against.