Oral Tracey | Disrespect for Tallawahs fans
The decision by the management of the Jamaica Tallawahs franchise in the Hero Caribbean Premier League (CPL) to export three of their five designated home games to the Central Broward Park in Lauderhill, Florida has understandably been met with disapproval and displeasure by many fans of the Jamaican franchise, especially in a context where the Tallawahs boast one of the best records of consistent fan support for the team since the inception of the CPL.
There is no other sporting franchise anywhere in the world that would dare to play the majority of their home games away from their designated home arena, barring extenuating circumstances. Just imagine the New York Knicks deciding that for economic reasons, they are going to play more than half of their home fixtures for the new NBA season away from Madison Square Garden, or the equivalent in football of English Premier League giants Manchester United deciding that for marketing and business reasons, they are going to play 12 of their 19 home games away from Old Trafford. The outbursts of disapproval and anger from the fan bases of those two famous organisations would be loud, clear and fully justified.
The reality that a sporting franchise is a business that must make money cannot get lost in the debate. If these dynamics remain and the team management insists on exporting the majority of the home games, then maybe the franchise should be renamed and relocated to Florida, allowing for the emergence of a separate Franchise that will adhere to the basic principles of professional sports franchises.
The notion that this move is motivated by poor attendance in Jamaica has been swept aside as false based on the attendance record at Tallawahs games at Sabina Park over the years. If the decision to relocate home games overseas persists into next season, then the message that Jamaican fans don't count will be fully sent and received.
Nothing is wrong, in principle, with playing one or two games in the foreign market for marketing or even straight business purposes. The American National Football League (NFL) has played the odd regular season game in England, while the Spanish LaLiga announced recently the intention to play at least one league game on American soil. The lines were crossed by the Tallawahs when three
prime-time games, including weekend games out of five, or 60 per cent of the allocated home games, are being exported, leaving Jamaica with two midweek games out of five. That is downright disrespect and disdain for the Jamaica Tallawahs fans.
It is also worth noting that the recent three-game international Twenty20 (T20) series between the Windies and Bangladesh also saw the deciding two games played in Florida after the token first game in St Kitts. The disrespect and disdain, therefore, seem to be permeating general regional cricket officialdom. The covert hypocrisy about this scenario is that the T20 format is the format that the purists and administrators of the game have generally treated like a bastard child. Yet, they have suddenly compromised their principles and beliefs by now seeking to cash in on the bastard child's appeal while robbing local fans of the opportunity to watch the format of the game that they demonstrably prefer to watch.
The hope is that the outcry from the fans, in tandem with the massive turnout at the two token home games, will convince the management of Jamaica Tallawahs, going forward, to rethink their disrespectful position. It would be good if they at least played the majority of the home games at home instead of in a foreign land and stopped using the Jamaica and Tallawahs brands in this unprincipled manner.