Time to set up international fund
Edward Seaga, Contributor
Sport provides excellent opportunities for financial reward. In the English Premier League, many football players are able to earn millions of pounds sterling annually. That's the kind of salary a chief executive of a very large global company would get. This is what is held out to aspiring youth who want to make it to the top and who want to know that after all the hard work, they are going to be able to reap rich rewards.
Sport is supposed to be an agent of development. That's what this UNESCO congress is saying. We wonder in what way these two concepts are tied together because one is supposedly light-hearted and the other, development, is a serious matter. But sport is at the hub of an interacting web in which many, many areas of activities - economic, social and cultural - are linked.
First of all, there is a need for facilities for the game, whether it be a running track, a football field, or cricket pitch. This involves special training for preparing good surface.
The athletes who perform require therapies of different types, depending on the sport. They need medical specialists to assist them in making their muscle groups work better, so that they can perform to the best of their ability.
Because of the tensions involved, sports needs psychologists, trained professionals who can give performers the confidence to move forward with conviction. Sports need nutritionists, without whom all the other factors would be deficient.
Sports require fitness training, and the facilities to train in gymnasiums. There is specialised high-tech equipment now available which can help by diagnosing weaknesses.
Sports have specialities, like many other disciplines. Sports tourism is growing and may involve the islands of the Caribbean in a new direction for tourism. International venues are available here, and it is a matter of establishing the brand of the sport and the extent to which the venue would be suitable.
proper training necessary
Events need media reporting by journalists who are adequately trained: broadcasters, writers, event people, media facilities and equipment are required for radio broadcasts and television. Technicians are necessary to operate the equipment. Cameramen, announcers, sound technicians, and media professionals who are able to comment and report on events to keep fans sitting on the edge of their seats. Promotional publications are important in not only publicising events and programmes but also through the development of pictorial magazines on athletes. TV and video production requires trained individuals to maximise promotion.
Then there is the personal equipment that athletes use. The gear, footwear and other paraphernalia, all of which can further promote the athlete by branding. All of us know the sports activities that carry branded T-shirts, branded trunks and boots and so on. This is important as part of the financing of the sport itself.
Professionals have to be involved in management of the athletes. Agents have to be appointed.
Publicists who can help to identify the star performers and promote them are critical, because spectators follow stars. Then there is transport of all types to move athletes to destinations.
On the monetary side, investment counsellors need to guide successful athletes on how to invest their funds. And, finally, there are the financiers - those who inject capital into sporting events and who build the facilities.
With all these linkages, it should not be surprising that sport is one of the highest contributors to the gross domestic product of the Jamaican economy.
Sports are grounded to domestic linkages which contribute to the local economy. Other contributors, like tourism, leave 30 per cent of what is earned in the country; 70 per cent of it goes out to pay for imports of goods and services. There are other industries, such as mining, that also depend upon imported inputs.
But the linkages of sports are virtually all domestic, hence the contribution is high. In Jamaica, we are happy with the extent to which sport has provided employment. The data tell us that 22,474 people are employed in sports and sports-related activities in Jamaica, and that is not a small number in our context.
I close with one proposal. The other field with which I am heavily identified and which is also a passion of mine is culture. Back in the 1960s when I was first responsible for cultural development, among other things, I was concerned with finding finances to build cultural facilities and projects. This was a big stumbling block, especially at the lower levels of small communities.
At that time, I came to the conclusion that this needed international help. It was not among the subjects that were chosen for special prominence when the UN was established. But sports fit within the framework of UNESCO.
At a conference in Jamaica in 1969, I suggested the establishment of an international culture bank at UNESCO to develop resources to fund cultural projects. That proposal was accepted and the International Fund for the Promotion of Culture was eventually established in 1973. It still provides funding for a small number of useful and important cultural projects internationally.
I wonder if the time has not come to replicate this in sports. Apart from sponsorships from private firms which are always forthcoming but never sufficient, sports find it hard to be able to build representational teams or help develop individuals to their maximum ability.
If such a fund was established, UNESCO could use its own considerable state to attract funds to be disbursed to the UNESCO representative agencies in the various countries, to assist events, facilities and teams. I believe this might help to make sports even more attractive and far-reaching.
Sport speaks an international language. It is a language that almost everybody speaks. Sports break down all borders of inequity and discrimination. Sport is a stabiliser, not just a lightweight, recreational, exciting pastime. It is as powerful as the language of love.
Edward Seaga is a former prime minister. He is now chancellor of UTech and a distinguished fellow at the UWI. Email feedback to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.