By Akeem Greene
The Caribbean Premier League (CPL) enters its fifth year and it has continued to grow exponentially, now reaching the sunny state of Florida in the United States of the America. Themed “The Biggest Party In Sport”, the League attracts some of the best international cricketers from across the globe which has set the stage for a plethora of thrilling T20 cricket for Caribbean fans and those in the Diaspora.
The six-franchise League gives territories such as Guyana, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, St Lucia, St Kitts and Nevis, and Antigua and Barbuda (2013) great opportunity to reap tremendous financial income.
Each year, the National Stadium at Providence, which is the home ground of the Guyana Amazon Warriors, attract humongous crowds. With tournaments such as these, it is not only the sold out stadiums that warrant the prestige but it is a chance to showcase one’s country on the global market since television viewership would usually span each continent. But has Guyana been able to capitalise on the impact of CPL? Has it proven to be one of the precursors in efforts to develop sports tourism?
Financially, the answers are astounding. According to a 2016 report on the tournament, “the Guyanese economy reaped a US$15,447,309 windfall from the staging of its four pool matches, with the total contribution from the Hero CPL amounting to US$1,200,408. The overall visitor spend for the 2016 runners up was fractionally down by 4% to $2,306,392; however, there were gains for the Guyana Tourism Authority whose shirt sponsorship deal has almost trebled its media value since 2014, from US$2,123,005 to US$5,978,951 in 2016”.
It added, “Hosting CPLT20 in Guyana created 349 local jobs and filled 2295 hotel room nights. With a combined TV audience in excess of 120 million for the four Guyana Amazon Warriors’ home matches, in all 50,304 fans attended matches at Providence Stadium during the 2016 season”.
In fact, the 2016 season was the tournament’s biggest yet, with over 134 million viewers tuning in globally to the biggest party in sport, representing a 44 percent increase from 2015.
Cumulative audience figures have risen steadily year on year since the tournament’s inception from 36 million viewers (in 2013), to 66 million (2014), 93 million (2015) and now to 134 million (2016).
The tournament gave Guyana an opportunity to now create a sustained sports tourism initiative, and in the words of veteran broadcaster Joseph “Reds” Perreria, ““Guyana has tremendous possibilities for sports tourism”.
Perreria’s words came while speaking on Saturday at the Guyana Tourism Authority seminar/workshop on Developing Sport Tourism held at the Guyana Pegasus.
“My own feeling is that Guyana has tremendous possibilities for sport tourism; you are sitting on a volcano of opportunities that you might not be conscious of,” he stated precisely.
The Guyanese native who now resides in St Lucia disclosed that the “rest of the Caribbean are involved in sports tourism” and believes it is time for Guyana to follow suit.
But how does Guyana get on par with the rest of the Caribbean and in turn, the world? “Reds” answer to that question was to get all stakeholders involved and utilise the new trend – social media – as much as possible since respective associations can help promote their disciplines to a larger and readily accessible audience.
Regarding the social media aspect, the CPL, over the years, has improved its presence on all the social outlets, creating not only a “stadium-filled” fan base but one via social networking which is vital in sports tourism.
More so, Perreria addressed the need for internal tourism, which could be a fruitful beginning since it is not necessarily about making money but creating the atmosphere that cultivates tourism.
This provides another chance for Guyana to use the League as a yardstick to advance the sector, since, according to CPL’s Chief Operating Officer (COO), Pete Russell in an exclusive interview last month, they are aiming to develop a hinterland cricketer.
“We want to do more: what we are looking to do in Guyana is a good example; we very much want to take the game into the hinterland. My big thing is to try and find a future Test cricketer that comes from the jungle; it is all about how we can develop the game in these regions; it is a great opportunity for us and we will be looking to initiatives to bring all these guys closer to the game,” Russell revealed.
While the League is a catalyst for sports development, having adequate facilities becomes critical, which makes the support of the Government and Private Sector vital.
The league not only generates per capita for the host country from the actual match days but also a pleasant fact that visitors will in-turn spend foreign revenue by shopping, staying in hotels or entertainment which will essentially provide an added boost to the economy.
The Hero CPL is set to bowl off on August 4, and Guyana is set to host four exciting matches in the month of August. The Warriors will clash with the defending champions Jamaica Tallawahs on the 17th followed by Trinbago Knight Riders on the 19th. The three-time runners-up Warriors will then oppose Barbados Tridents the following day after which they play St Lucia Stars on the 22nd.
The 34-game competition, which will be staged in seven countries over a six-week period, will conclude with the finals on Saturday, September 9, with the name of the host country set to be announced in due course.