Don Wehby, the cricket-loving chief executive officer of GraceKennedy Limited, has challenged cricket clubs in Jamaica to come up with innovative and creative ways to help the game to rise from the ashes and reclaim its place in the hearts of Jamaicans.
In a speech delivered at Melbourne Cricket Club's annual presentation dinner on Saturday night by Major Radcliffe Daley - vice-president service systems and processes at First Global Financial Services Limited - on behalf of Wehby who was unavoidably absent, Wehby provided a few ideas of how to go about doing this.
First, Wehby said there needs to be a renewed relationship between the cricketing fraternity and corporate Jamaica, then the clubs need to build a fan base, and finally the clubs need to come up with an "adopt-a-player" system.
Expanding on the relationship between the clubs and corporate Jamaica, Wehby said "there must be a clear understanding of a shared vision and shared goals and an agreed strategy as to how these goals and vision will be achieved".
"Sponsorship today involves responsibility, transparency and accountability," reminded the business executive. "Gone are the days when a company hands over money in the way of a donation and simply leaves it at that. Corporations want to be a part of the project, they want to ensure that the results are attained and you have to take into consideration the opportunity that it provides for us to expose our products and services."
critical fan base
The fan base, said Wehby, is critical as the truth is that "many entities will not want to get involved in sponsorship with a small number of spectators as it is often the promise of large numbers of people that feeds sponsorship.
"If you are to attract sponsorship in a big way, you must be able to attract people to watch cricket and in order to do that, there has to be a change in the way things are currently done so you can find new and innovative ways to revive interest in the game."
After speaking about the excitement of one-day and Twenty20 cricket and the part they can play in bringing people to the game, and for the young to understand the game, the man who is passionate about the game and is dedicated to its preservation and development, said these forms of the game can be used to inject some life into cricket.
"In the early days of cricket in Jamaica our clubs enjoyed that community and family support and I believe that there is still enough love for cricket for us to capitalise on. We just have to make our matches appealing to the family and to the community.
"There is a shortage of family entertainment in Jamaica and cricket can be one of the activities that can fill the void. Once you get the patrons, the sponsors will come.
"Many Jamaicans are hungry for a revival of the game, including many in corporate Jamaica, who will be open to any viable and novel ideas as to how to restore the 'shine' of cricket."
After reminding that it was through cricket that Jamaica first became known worldwide, that George Headley was the first great Jamaican and that Jamaica owes the development of the game to the cricket clubs, Don Wehby urged the clubs to look at partnering with corporate Jamaica in the "adopt-a-player" system.
Wehby, through Daley, after talking about the benefits of the "adopt-a-player" system, ended by saying, "but why not expand this idea further to look at the adoption of clubs?"