Ja could lose Tallawahs - CPL boss admits franchise relocation is possible
The possibility of Jamaica losing its Caribbean Premier League (CPL) franchise is becoming increasingly likely, according to information reaching The Sunday Gleaner.
Jamaica has been home to two-time champions, the Tallawahs, since the inception of the Twenty20 cricket tournament in 2013.
However, this association is under severe threat due to what insiders have described as insufficient support from the Jamaican Government and corporate sector over the years, with one well-placed source stating that the option of permanently relocating the franchise is now being considered at the highest level.
This perceived 'lack of support' has, according to our source, left a massive disparity in the economic viability of the Tallawahs and the other five regional franchises, who it was stated, all receive significantly more assistance in their respective territories.
The Tallawahs have been the subject of public outcry this season, ever since it was revealed that three of the team's five home matches would be moved away from Sabina Park in Kingston, to the Central Broward Recreational Park in South Florida, where current owners, Worldwide Sports Management Group, is heavily invested.
This was explained by Tallawahs chief operating officer, Jeff Miller, as a necessary step both to increase financial feasibility and broaden the reach of the sport and the Tallawahs brand.
Pete Russell, the CPL's chief operating officer, admitted that it is possible that the franchise would be moved from Jamaica.
"Absolutely. A franchise had already been moved before and with great success," Russell said, responding to an email from The Sunday Gleaner. "As mentioned, we are in a supply and demand situation - where demand is great. So it most definitely could happen."
The Antigua Hawkbills featured in the first two editions of the CPL in 2013 and 2014, but it has since essentially been replaced by the St Kitts and Nevis Patriots.
Interestingly, the St Kitts and Nevis government announced it experienced a US$25 million boost to its economy after the semi-final and final were staged there in 2014, a year before the Patriots were created.
"We love playing in Jamaica - but there is huge demand for CPL to play games in other countries - we will continue to look at the US market as it makes sense to do so.
"It is important to have a balanced relationship with any host country - we feel we bring a lot in terms of investment and social benefits - you only have see what is going on in Trinidad and Guyana this week to appreciate the feel good factor CPL brings.
"Owners will put their teams where they feel most comfortable and that involves a lot of factors, from investment, fans, facilities etc."
Minister of Sport Olivia 'Babsy' Grange confirmed a few weeks ago that the Jamaican Government invested just over $7 million through combined sponsorship in 2015 and 2017. It reportedly cost the Tallawahs more than $9 million to stage the two games at Sabina Park this season alone.
But can or should the Jamaican Government provide more support for what is essentially an international team?
Considering things such as organiser spend, visitor spend and media value, world-renown researchers SMG Insight calculated that the CPL created an economic impact of US$95 million across the region in 2017, with 200 million eyes tuning in to games from around the world.
Financial analyst Ralston Hyman agrees that there is value, but believes that it is the local private sector, that should take the lead in providing the support for the Tallawahs.
"What we need to do in terms of giving the support, is to try and link it more closely with the tourism sector and get some support perhaps from the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF), but it's not something that government could totally support," said Hyman.
"Essentially, the Tallawahs have to make themselves marketable to the private sector because those are private sector activities, and remember, we don't have enough resources to go around," he added. "To the extent where we want to maximise and integrate tourism more with sport and culture, between Sports Development Foundation and TEF, they (Government) could provide some support, but they (Tallawahs) would need to take it from there and make it more marketable to the private sector."
MAJOR LOCAL SPONSOR
The Tallawahs currently have one major local company as a sponsor - Chas E Ramson, through its Foska Oats brand.
Professor Vanus James' study on the creative sector, published a decade ago, puts the value at 4 per cent of GDP. Hyman estimates that this has since risen to anywhere between seven and 10 per cent of GDP, or over $100 billion.
"We think governments probably do understand the value, but some choose not to acknowledge it ... . For this region, sports tourism should be pushed harder and with the global coverage CPL receives, governments should be using the tournament to further their tourism agendas. But let's not also forget that CPL creates employment and helps local businesses - filling hotels, restaurants etc. It is a strong economic lever and that bit is certainly not acknowledged enough," Russell added.
In addition to financial assistance, Russell noted that support can also be provided through concession and facilitations to ease operations.
No team has enjoyed more success in the CPL than the Tallawahs, which won the inaugural competition in 2013 and were again successful in 2016.