Sat | Dec 14, 2019

Here to stay - Tallawahs CEO commits ­franchise to Jamaica for ­foreseeable future

Published:Friday | October 25, 2019 | 12:10 AMRachid Parchment/Assistant Sports Editor
Jamaica Tallawahs player Andre Russell looks on while fielding during their Caribbean Premier League game against the Guyana Amazon Warriors, in front of scanty stands at Sabina Park on Wednesday, September 18, 2019.
Jamaica Tallawahs player Andre Russell looks on while fielding during their Caribbean Premier League game against the Guyana Amazon Warriors, in front of scanty stands at Sabina Park on Wednesday, September 18, 2019.

Jamaica Tallawahs Chief Executive Officer Jeff Miller says that despite low attendance for the franchise’s home games in the Caribbean Premier League at Sabina Park this season, the team has no intention of leaving the island. However, it is considering the possibility of playing some games in Trelawny next season.

There was optimism in the Tallawahs fan base heading into the 2019 season as the team would be playing all home games in Jamaica, unlike the previous season where three home fixtures were played instead in Lauderhill, Florida. However, after two defeats on the road to the Trinbago Knight Riders and St Kitts and Nevis Patriots, the first home game of the season, against the St Lucia Zouks, was played in front of a scanty crowd at Sabina Park. All other games at the venue featured similarly low attendance.

Fans and pundits speculated about the future of the team for next season, believing in the possibility of a move back to Florida or even to another Caribbean island, but Miller said that despite the challenges of operating in Jamaica, he still sees its future in the island.

“We were disappointed with the turnout of the spectators, but maybe we did as much as we could,” Miller told The Gleaner. “I had a meeting with my staff in Jamaica, and we were looking at what went wrong and what we didn’t do in order to have a packed stadium. But look, we’re going back to the drawing board. The Tallawahs is Jamaican and we will be back next year.”

Miller told The Gleaner in January that the team spent $10 million on both games at Sabina Park in the 2018 season. This was $3 million more than what was spent on the three games in Lauderhill. Tallawahs owner Krishna ‘Kris’ Persaud was also part of that interview with Miller and had then described the $4.5 million he received from the Ministry of Sports in 2017 as a “pittance”, creating tension between both parties. Miller now describes the relationship with the Government as amicable and thanked it for its support. However, he says the cost of hosting games at Sabina Park in the 2019 season has risen from last year although he did not have the specific numbers at the time of the interview.

“I appreciate what we received from the Ministry of Sports and the minister (Olivia Grange),” he said. “She was very receptive. We worked our differences out and we have a successful relationship going forward. The figure provided was a couple million, but it was a substantial amount.

“[The cost of running games] is an issue that has to be worked out. The cost to use Sabina Park is extremely high. I’m hoping that Sabina Park Holdings, JCA (Jamaica Cricket Association), the Government, and the Tallawahs can sit down and try to have a comparable number that all of us can work with because at the present moment, it’s unsustainable. We cannot continue in the manner we have at this point in time with the cost that we have to pay for Sabina Park. It just can’t work.”

One option that the Tallawahs board considered was to also play games at the Trelawny Stadium. This facility, which was opened in 2007 for the opening ceremony of the ICC World Cup, has been largely underused in its 12-year existence and many residents in its surrounding communities have said they want more activity at the ground. Miller said that playing games there could address the low turnout for games for next season, but with many matches played at nights, lighting is a serious concern.

“It’s something we’re looking at, but there are no lights at Trelawny,” he said. “That’s the only hindrance that we have, but I’m only hoping that we can have some discussions with the government ASAP (as soon as possible) to see if that’s a possibility. Definitely, we’d love to have some games in Trelawny.”

The Tallawahs won only one of those home fixtures, against the Barbados Tridents, and finished bottom of the six-team table on four points. Their other win of the 10 fixtures was in their return fixture in Barbados, and they ended with a net run rate of -1.478.

rachid.parchment@gleanerjm.com