Oral Tracey | Now we know, Tallawahs!
After a plethora of emotional and at times vitriolic outbursts from fans of the Jamaica Tallawahs franchise in the Hero Caribbean Premier League (CPL), in reaction to the team management's decision to play three of their designated five home games in Lauderhill, Florida, a public-relations nightmare was beginning to unfold for the franchise's ownership and management.
The team going on to lose all three games in Florida in front of very moderate crowds rubbed even more salt into the wounds of the team's management and ownership. Thanks to that almost embarrassing sequence of events, however, we are beginning to get some of the specific answers to the several questions relating to the controversial move.
It was neither greed nor disdain for the fans as was being theorised. It was strictly business, motivated by the lack of sponsorship support from both the Jamaican Government and the private sector. That's the essence of the response coming from the Tallawahs hierarchy.
With a pay bill of close to US$1 million dollars, not even a full Sabina Park for every home game of the season can guarantee the financial sustainability of the Tallawahs franchise, while, by contrast, the other five competing franchises across the region continue to receive significantly more sponsorship support from their governments and business sectors.
The Honourable Minister of Sports Olivia Grange promptly responded with confirmation that the Jamaican Government has, in the past, contributed over $7 million to the Tallawahs cause. The minister chronicled funding of US$25,000 for the 2015 season, followed by US$35,000 in the 2017 season, while revealing that a late request cost the Tallawahs their allocation for this season.
The real context of the discontent, however is the disparity in support that the other franchises continue to get compared to what is coming the way of the Tallawahs. Reports quoted figures ranging from US$500,000 to US$3 million in support by the governments of the smaller Caribbean territories to their respective franchises.
The fact that the Jamaican Government is constrained by the International Monitary Fund agreement and increasingly limited resources cannot be scoffed at. How, though, the conspicuous snob of the Jamaican private sector? It is absolutely befuddling to think that a product as popular, as viewed locally and internationally as the CPL, a month-long spectacle that is on display in packed stadia across the region and streamed into the big markets of Australia and India, cannot attract the requisite sponsorship.
The Tallawahs management obviously made their unpopular move out of frustration, but the public-relations department of the franchise should have been more forthright with the dissemination of the information relating to the reasons for the moving the games to Florida before the fact. Better communication with skipper AndrÈ Russell and the players surely would have prevented Russell's public expression of displeasure at playing at home away from home.
The utterances of the exuberant and inexperienced skipper seemed to characterise a champion and serial winner whose last priority in those emotionally testy moments was political correctness. Ironically, the Russell outburst did accelerate the streaky flow of the information regarding the specific reasons for the exporting of the Tallawahs home games.
Just like the rest of us, Russell was in the dark and responded as such. Thankfully, skipper Russell and the rest of us now know who the culprits are. We can now see them perched in the wings, awaiting the full motion of the wagon so they can promptly jump aboard. Now we know. Now we understand.