Tony Becca | Wanted: some money for sports
As the old year passes and the new year beckons, I am forced to renew my call for more assistance for sports from the private sector, and I am doing so once again because of sports' failure to fund itself, because of the need for it, and also because of the encouraging words of others.
Back in January, Don Wehby, the head of GraceKennedy, speaking at the annual RJR Sports Foundation Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year awards ceremony, made a plea for the private sector of Jamaica to invest in sports, not only for sports' sake but also for growing one's business.
To a rousing reception, Wehby spoke of the value of sports around the world, the value of sports to businesses, what could be the value of sports to Jamaican businesses, and reminded all and sundry that he knew of the value of sponsorship in sports because his company had benefited from involvement in sports.
He talked about how important such investment would be, not only to sports, but also to education and the general environment, while promising to launch the 'Sports Incorporated Jamaica' programme for investors.
And then, a little over two months ago, in October, another businessman, Michael Lawson, said that Government "can't take on everything", and that the private sector needs to get involved, probably by adopting some of the country's football clubs.
On that occasion, Keith Duncan, chairman of Economic Programme Oversight Committee (EPOC) and head of Jamaica Money Market Brokers (JMMB), spoke also of the value to both sides of the involvement of businesses with sports.
Over the years, Jamaica has been the envy of the world, or of most it, because it is winning in so many sports.
Right now, Jamaica seems to have the golden touch. Right now, everything Jamaicans touch seems to turn to gold.
Jamaicans, no doubt about it, are gifted, but it takes money, plenty money, to find that talent, to hone the talent, to expose it, and to compete, especially on the international stage.
That money is difficult to find in a small country like Jamaica, in such a basically poor country like Jamaica, and in such a country where the demands on the Government are so heavy when it comes to catering for the needs of the poor, and when it comes to providing the basic necessities, such as food, water, housing, education, health, security, etc.
Jamaicans are successful in sports, more and more Jamaicans are becoming interested and successful in sports, and these Jamaicans are at home and abroad, thus making the need for more money greater by the day.
BEYOND THE CALL
To the everlasting credit of the private sector, some of them have gone beyond the call of duty in answering the call almost every time, but like in everything else, the more one achieves, the more one wants to achieve, and the more it takes to achieve.
Once upon a time, it was only cricket, and it was followed by track and field, football, table tennis, boxing, and netball, golf, swimming, tennis, badminton, hockey, and rugby, until today it includes sports like dressage, diving, and lacrosse, etc.
Every day, it seems, there is another sport which is gearing up for the next Olympic Games or a World Championship, to the extent that it seems the more the merrier.
The more the merrier seems good, especially if the prospect of winning is also good. Winning, and winning more, would add sheen to the Jamaica brand.
With each sport costing money, plenty money, to nurture the talent, to prepare for international competition, and with the people unwilling to pay for their own development, however, the growing number of sports means billions of dollars, and although it should be the responsibility of the sport to fund itself, with a little assistance from the Government, it usually falls in the lap of the Government, along with a few private-sector businesses.
And next year, what with the women's World Cup in France and Jamaica's historic participation, what with the preparation for the men's bid for a place to the men's World Cup in 2022, it will be a time of plenty expenditure.
In 1995, as Jamaica fought to go to France in 1998, every Jamaican sports association was asked to 'tighten your belt' to facilitate the Reggae Boyz's efforts.
In other words, money from the Government for sports was rationed.
Money, next year, will be hard to find by the Government to do what should be done.
It would be nice, therefore, if the sentiments of Michael Lawson, Keith Duncan, and especially of Don Wehby, could come to life early next year, and if instead of asking for help, of pleading for help, of expecting or demanding help from Government, the sports associations will sell, or market, their sports to businesses, and in turn, the businesses will see the light in assisting sports while helping themselves.
As the merry sounds of Christmas fade away, and the new year, with its expectations and surprises, is ushered in, Jamaicans and West Indians have two wishes.
For Jamaicans, the wish is that Jamaicans can find the money to do what they need to fulfil their many desires without it affecting the poor and needy of the society; and for West Indians, the wish is that things will return to normal, that the West Indies cricket team will be correctly called the West Indies, and that West Indies cricket will also return to its rightful place, or to a place where West Indians can once again feel proud.