Playing for profit

The 2007 Cricket World Cup, hosted for the first time by the West Indies, is a big deal for Caribbean sports fans — but also for Caribbean economies

  • Illustration by Marlon Griffith

The ICC Cricket World Cup will mean some serious fun for millions this March and April, but it will also mean serious business for others. With the huge investments being made, the tournament was always going to represent more to the Caribbean region than merely establishing sporting supremacy. The eventual champions, and those heading home after first-round elimination, won’t be the only winners and losers, come the final analysis.

The tournament’s figure-head, Windies World Cup 2007 chief executive officer Chris Dehring, is bullish about the overall profitability of the venture, but cagey about the precise figures. “The expected bottom-line figure is not being made public, but it certainly runs into a net profit of the tens of millions,” he says.

The revenue streams producing this profit are varied, but major contributors include a share of Global Cricket Corporation’s US$550 million for ICC events between 2001 and 2007, the support of official global partners and sponsors, projected ticket sales of US$42 million, and broadcasting rights and merchandising.

The tournament’s net profit is, of course, not the sole determinant of success, and there will be huge spin-off benefits for other industries, such as tourism. “Hosting an event of this magnitude attracts a new sector of visitor to the region, and you are direct-marketing to them,” says Dehring. “There are also the television viewers. This is a whole new audience who may not have thought about the Caribbean as a travel destination, but will have the region showcased before their eyes.”

In fact, the World Cup’s ripple effect, says Dehring, is already being felt by a wide cross-section of Caribbean society and industry. “Events of this type generate tremendous activity in the economies of the hosting nations. It can jumpstart economies that might have been lagging behind somewhat. There is more focus on capital expenditure, and the World Cup acts as a catalyst in getting them achieved.
“There is road building, the upgrading of hospitals, airports, and general levels of service. It really puts an onus on the countries to improve their infrastructure, and this all helps to facilitate tourism growth as well, of course.”

Dehring argues that a successful World Cup will also highlight the Caribbean’s professional capacity. “Hosting a mega-event exposes the capabilities of the region to the world. The knowledge transfer and development of managerial capabilities inherent in hosting a tournament like this are huge. It gives the region and the countries individually the confidence that they will be considered for future events.”

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Don Lockerbie, ICC event development director, says the complexity of the preparations is helping foster a feeling of solidarity that will aid the fledgling regional economic community embodied in Caricom. “Instead of one country with nine host cities, we are one region with nine host countries. Instead of dealing with one prime minister, we have nine; instead of one attorney general, we have nine, but it has been an atmosphere of co-operation. The communication has been excellent, and I think this will be one of the big success stories for Caricom.”

Hosting can have an even more direct impact on the development of business relations, continues Lockerbie. “These events are fantastic for hosting business clients, and when people see the business going on and are attracted by the location, this can influence future decisions. For international firms thinking about opening up their next office, they may well think about the Caribbean because of the experience they had during the World Cup.”

It is not only private business which is recognising the region’s potential. It can hardly be coincidence, or sheer benevolence, that sees the Indian government financing the Providence Stadium in Guyana, the Taiwanese helping out in St Kitts and Nevis, and the Chinese involved in Jamaica, Antigua, and Grenada. “It is an ideal time to establish links and partnerships,” says Lockerbie.

The biggest single invest-ment being made is in new stadiums, and questions have been asked about whether some of the smaller host nations can really justify the sums spent. Lockerbie, who is overseeing the stadiums’ development, defends the expenditure.

“Our total bill for all the stadiums is between US$350 and 400 million; but the Wembley project [in London] alone is currently over US$1 billion. We are building twelve Wembleys, in countries where some of the economies struggle at times, and in a region that historically hasn’t done this sort of thing. It is a massive undertaking, but also a wonderful opportunity.”

Some of the top experts in the field of stadium construction are being employed, but on a remit that means their cost is not prohibitive. “We are putting in place only what is required by all the stakeholders; with an emphasis on the players, of course. We are not the most extravagant, we are not the most lavish, but we are the most accurate.”

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The stadiums will influence another legacy benefit Lockerbie is anticipating: sports tourism. School, club, and professional sporting teams already tour the region, and golfers take advantage of some wonderfully scenic courses, but he expects interest to soar after the exposure of the World Cup. These new structures will also be multifunctional, and the intention is to see them fully utilised post-tournament.

“The implications were carefully considered all the way down the line, and these will be revenue-generating. We have no white elephants. The stadiums will be temples to entertainment, used for concerts, trade shows, massive social events, festivals, and the like.”

Clearly, the tournament’s governing chiefs are upbeat about the impact Cricket World Cup 2007 will have on the West Indies. As Lockerbie says, “I do not know of a country which has hosted the Olympics or a FIFA World Cup that, when it is finished, said ‘I wish we hadn’t done that’.” But are the individual host countries singing from the same hymn sheet?

Karan Singh, CEO of the Guyana local organising committee (LOC), says the tournament has to be viewed as a long-term investment. “The capital investment is too large for a profit to be made just on the Cricket World Cup; what we are looking towards are the legacy benefits.

“We are preparing the country for the future. The facilities being put in place to deal with the inflow of visitors for the tournament will be there when they have gone. We are promoting a clean country, building hotels, restaurants, and roads. We want people to enjoy their time here, and then to spread the word about this beautiful country called Guyana.”

He sees the event unashamedly as a marketing tool. “We are not paying millions of dollars for the broadcasting rights for direct advertising to showcase Guyana, but that is what will happen. It is a huge opportunity.”

There will be profits to be made at the time of the World Cup as well, though. “It is the individual businesses on the ground that will make the money: the hotel industry, the night clubs, restaurants, tourist resorts, the taxi drivers, the minibuses, and the supporting sectors such as agriculture. These are the people who will benefit.”

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It is a similar story in Grenada. “If you look at the event just on its own, then it will most definitely be a loss,” says Troy Garvey at the country’s LOC. “But that is not the only measure of success; we are looking at this as a way of showcasing the country, telling the world about Grenada, and we’re hoping tourism will be the big winner.

“In 2004 we had a major disaster in Hurricane Ivan, and now, two years later, we want to tell the world that we’ve bounced back — we want to show off the culture of our country, the food, the crafts. It’s a statement that we want to make.”

The legacy of the in-frastructural improvements taking place is again seen as a huge plus-point. “Look at the road building and the bridges, the expansion of the airport, the upgrading of practice facilities, the knowledge transfer. These will impact all areas of our economy.

“There is also the home-state programme, where people rent out rooms in their homes or apartments. We want that to become established, to build up a database of these people. Having these sorts of things in place will help the tendering process for other events in the future.”