ARE OUR SPORTS IN TROUBLE?

There was a recent article published in the Gleaner in which Aubyn Hill wrote on Jamaica’s existing economic situation. In the column he spoke to the fact that the average Jamaican was not experiencing the benefits of Jamaica’s success in passing five straight International Monetary Fund tests.

While Jamaica has been doing well its people are not. The average man is finding it harder to meet his financial obligations. It is getting harder to pay all the bills and put food on the table. What this means is that many households are experiencing negative cash flow.

Then at the Corporate level, the continuing uncertainty and higher levels of taxation are forcing companies to cut back on spending. Take Supreme Ventures, for example. This is a company that contributes heavily to the CHASE Fund which in turn funds the Sports Development Foundation.

The company has been at the mercy of new tax measures imposed on gaming. In recent times that has seen it cut back on sponsorship of several sporting programmes.

Government has also now diverted uncollected winnings to other areas thus further limiting SVL’s ability to help struggling sports in the country.

When you consider that plus the fact that people are finding it harder to go out and support their favourite sports, then very soon we could have a predicament on our hands.

Now, if spectator support dwindles and corporate sponsorship dwindles, what it means is that only the most popular sports will likely get sponsored and the less popular ones – which are already being ignored – will be forced to retreat even further and could eventually die.

At the height of the worldwide recession sport was the only industry that really grew, by some reports as much as 15 per cent.

In the United States, the four major sports continued to thrive even as people continued to lose jobs and entire communities perished because many homeowners found themselves under water. That is, their homes were not worth what they were paying for it.

Still stadia across the USA were still full on game days. In Jamaica, where many so-called sport fans are basically fair weather fans things are much different.

In the USA where many cities have populations two or three times the size of Jamaica’s, there were still enough people with sufficient disposable income to support sporting franchises.

In Jamaica where an estimated 1.1 million of the 2.7 million living below the poverty line things are a lot different. These days the decision a sport fans faces is whether to pay 5000 Jamaican dollars to watch the Reggae Boyz play at the national stadium or use the money to pay a bill. Oftentimes, the Reggae Boyz will lose out in that equation.

What doesn’t help is the fact that football matches involving the national team are usually televised and I am certain that what the stations pay to do so does not cover the costs that the JFF has to contend with after the match is done. Patrons filling seats inside the national stadium means more to football’s governing body than crowd support. Money from paying patrons goes toward paying for the stadium facility and use of the lights.
At the club level it’s even worse. The average club requires about 20-30 million a year to get by. There is hardly a premier League club in Jamaica that doesn’t face financial uncertainty.

With sponsorship harder to come by, money that literally goes into a black hole, everybody finds themselves running out of money fast. Broadcasting matches is not a money-making situation as the rundown facilities and sub-standard playing surfaces do not make for the kind of aesthetic appeal required to sell games on the international market.

The model then is terribly flawed.

The bottom line is that a lot needs to be fixed in Jamaica when it comes to sports. The current model by which sports are run in Jamaica today but even more critical is that we need to get the economy growing in terms of providing well-paying jobs so people can afford to have fun once more. They can afford to but tickets to track meets, football and netball matches etc.

Sports thrive when people pay to see their favourite athletes but for them to be able to do that consistently they need not to be deciding between attending a game and putting food on the table.

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levyl Posted by: levyl August 31, 2014 at 8:20 pm