Audley Boyd, Assistant Editor - Sport
TELECOMMUNICATIONS company Claro will be teaming up with the Institute of Sports (INSPORTS) in a major way - to the tune of at least $10 million - to enhance the standard of the INSPORTS All-Island Community League.
The islandwide competition kicked off last year with its first staging, for which the state-run sporting organisation bore costs for staging the event.
This year, Claro, who is still negotiating details with INSPORTS, have joined them in what appears certain to be a title-sponsorship role; and Consumer Brands, which markets a wide range of household products, will provide s significant amount of funding to offset costs associated with staging the competition.
Interestingly, the league was set to be launched on Friday, followed by a kick-off yesterday involving last year's winners, Claremont, at Watson Taylor Park in Hanover.
However, INSPORTS' top executives, Ian Andrews, executive director and chief accountant Andrew Wright, who conceptualised the competition, said they were forced to change plans at the eleventh hour to accommodate a bold and ambitious move by Claro to get involved.
"They (Claro) asked us to shift the starting date from October 29 to December 20 that'd be the date of the launch," said Wright.
"They actually stated that they're desirous of sponsoring no less than $10 million," he continued. "We're still negotiating to see whether or not we could get some more, which would bring it up to 50 per cent of our budget for this year. So far, we've actually accepted their interest and we're in the process of negotiating."
The competition caters to community-based teams from all over the country, consisting of individuals who are not associated with any team in a structured competition such as Manning Cup, daCosta Cup, parish divisional, Super or Premier League.
"Claro has expressed their desire to come on board for nation building in Jamaica," said Wright. "They saw it fit to make this huge contribution, because they saw the importance in investing in our unattached youth."
Andrews expressed pleasure about getting the sponsorships, noting it would have been difficult for the Government to carry the burden, given the harsh economic climate.
He said: "Last year it cost us $16 million. We didn't have any sponsors, the Government covered it. But as you know, these are hard times and there's a big strain on the Government to finance these sporting extravaganza, so we were pressed for garnering the funds.
"Luckily for us, when you are doing something good there are one or two persons who will see it, and Consumer Brands came on board as an associate sponsor [through their products VO5, Ariel, and Oral B] this year," Andrews pointed out.
Continuing, he said: "When we thought that was it, we set our date for October 30 to have the kick-off with the defending champions at Watson Taylor Park in Hanover, only to be told that we'd have to shift the date because sports-loving telecommunications company Claro asked of us to put the competition back simply because they wanted to get involved in a big way in community development, and by extension nation building, through this football community project."
Given the financing, there will be additional benefits to all participants.
"This will go a far way in allowing better playing conditions for the youth as it relates to the playing fields, it will allow us to give the youth better playing gears, etc," noted Wright.
"Last year, we did just jersey tops; now we'll be able to do shorts and possibly socks," he added. "It will allow us to also have the teams who advance to represent their parish get a cash prize.
"Last year, the winners got $500,000 and the second and third-place teams got cash benefits. This year, we'll extend it to the parish winners. All parish winners will walk away with something, we haven't worked it out yet. If it weren't for Claro we wouldn't be able to do this," explained Wright.
Besides the first-place cash prize, the runners-up got $150,000, third-place $100,000 and fourth $60,000. Wright said that apart from granting a cash award to all parish winners this year, they are looking to utilise the cash inflow to vastly improve the competition's profile.
"One of the other benefits is that we'll be in a position to extensively market the product. If you have a product and no one knows about it, it's just as good as not having a product.," he said.
"So we're going to increase the level of marketing, so as to increase the interest of our unattached youth in our society, so as to get help in an organised and structured programme to display their talent," he said, adding "and for Claro alone to express an interest is good enough, so while we negotiate the possibility of getting more, we've to express how grateful we are for Claro to have considered making such a donation."