Opinion: Caribbean sports stars eerily silent during coronavirus battle

By April 07, 2020

Global athletics superstar Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce is certainly deserving of yet another gold medal for what must certainly feel like a timely and meaningful contribution for those impacted by the global battle with the coronavirus.

The noted absence, however, of some of her Caribbean contemporaries speaks volumes or at the very least to a missed opportunity. 

Whether you consider it to be a foolish fact of life or not, millions of fans across the globe look up to the legends of sports on the pitch, track, or court as heroes.  Their opinions and actions carry a lot of weight and as a result, the post like it or not comes with a certain amount of social responsibility.

 In and of itself it makes no difference how far you can run down a track or how far you can hit a ball.  It is, in fact, the direct connection that those actions have with generations of fans who are inspired and filled with hope that makes those exploits worth the price tag.  It is a sacred responsibility and the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, perhaps the world’s biggest crisis, since World War II, marked the perfect opportunity to step up and fill those roles regardless of how small the contribution.

Leading the way, sports two biggest superstars Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, who donated €1 million each to fight the disease in Portugal and Spain.

 In addition, the pair also posted messages of support for local governments and solidarity with those affected.  Of course, not everyone can make such a sizeable contribution.  Elsewhere, Joe Root and Jos Butler auctioned World Cup jerseys with proceeds expected to go towards the fight against the coronavirus.  In the NBA, several players have contributed to various causes with superstars like LeBron James and Steph Curry asking fans to keep safe and ensure they followed lockdown protocols.  Early on cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar and closer home, Brian Lara, also sent messages of encouragement.  The great West Indian batsman even posting a video of himself demonstrating the proper way to wash your hands.

By contrast, with the exception of Fraser-Pryce, who generously donated three-dozen care package to student-athletes, the voices of the Caribbean’s sports stars have been oddly silent as the region and world battles the disruptive, dangerous epidemic.  With the Caribbean still spared major loss of life or high infection rates, perhaps the gravity of the situation is yet to sink in.

Adding powerful voices to those of the numerous governments could assist in keeping those rates down.  I could have missed the, and apologise if I have, but in my estimation, a bit more is needed than comedic tissue juggling acts or other stay-at-home challenges.  Perhaps though, other contributions have been made during this time of need that are yet to be recorded.  In times of despair, those influential regional voices could utter kind words of encouragement or demonstrate thoughtful gestures that could go a long way to helping the hurt of some fans.  It, after all, sends the clear signal that though we may be isolated, we are all in this fight together.   

Kwesi Mugisa

Kwesi has been a sports journalist with more than 10-years’ experience in the field. First as a Sports Reporter with The Gleaner in the early 2000s before he made the almost natural transition to becoming an editor. Since then he has led the revamp of The Star’s sports offering, making it a more engaging and forward-thinking component of the most popular tabloid newspaper in the Caribbean.

Related items

  • Coronavirus: Atletico's Carrasco says it will be weird playing without fans Coronavirus: Atletico's Carrasco says it will be weird playing without fans

    Atletico Madrid winger Yannick Carrasco said it will be "strange" playing behind closed doors when LaLiga restarts following the COVID-19 crisis.

    Suspended in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, LaLiga will get back underway with a derby clash between Sevilla and Real Betis on June 11.

    Diego Simeone's Atletico – sixth in the standings and a point adrift of the Champions League places – will travel to Athletic Bilbao on June 14.

    "It is a bit strange behind closed doors, but we are professions and we will do things in the best way so that the fans can watch a beautiful game on TV," Carrasco, who is back on loan at Atletico from Chinese side Dalian Professional, said.

    Atletico have not played since sensationally eliminating Champions League holders Liverpool in the last 16 of the competition in March.

    Simeone's men had also drawn back-to-back LaLiga matches prior to the 2019-20 season being postponed.

    Belgium international Carrasco added: "I'm very happy to see everyone and be able to train with everyone.

    "The team is fine. We have worked hard to prepare for the first match.

    "This stage is set to enter that match in a good state."

  • Coronavirus: Messi's enthusiasm contagious for Barcelona squad – Alba Coronavirus: Messi's enthusiasm contagious for Barcelona squad – Alba

    Lionel Messi's enthusiasm is contagious as LaLiga leaders Barcelona prepare to return following the coronavirus pandemic, according to team-mate Jordi Alba.

    Suspended in March due to the COVID-19 crisis, LaLiga will get back underway with a derby clash between Sevilla and Real Betis on June 11.

    Barca, who were two points clear of bitter rivals Real Madrid through 27 rounds at the time of postponement, will return with a trip to Real Mallorca on June 13.

    Captain and six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi has provided plenty of motivation ahead of the league's resumption, with left-back Alba telling TVE: "He's a vital player of us and we should enjoy having him all the time.

    "Seeing Leo with the enthusiasm he's come back with is contagious for the rest of the group."

    Messi had topped LaLiga's goalscoring charts with 19, ahead of Madrid forward Karim Benzema (14).

    "I see the team as having a lot of enthusiasm," Spain international Alba added.

    "Mentally and physically we players have come back really well I would say, even better than we were before."

    Meanwhile, defending champions Barca continue to be linked with former star Neymar – who left Camp Nou for Paris Saint-Germain in a world-record €222million transfer in 2017.

    On a possible return, Alba said: "He's clearly a unique player and he gave us a lot. He chose and looked for other goals."

  • Cricket's financial model is broken, but there is no easy fix Cricket's financial model is broken, but there is no easy fix

    The West Indies will most likely leave for the United Kingdom (UK) in about a week from today to play England in the first bio-secure Test series in history in July.

    The teams will play and whether they win the series or not, England will come away with virtually all the revenues generated from the series. For the West Indies, the story will be significantly different.

    Come July 1, the West Indies players and all Cricket West Indies (CWI) staff, will be taking a temporary 50 per cent salary cut.

    However, they are not alone. In April, England’s male and female players took a 20 per cent pay cut as the pandemic began to take hold in the UK forcing the postponement of the West Indies’ visit, which was initially scheduled for June.

    The thing is, on this tour other than match fees, CWI does not really earn anything. Under this dispensation, wherein the regional players are going to be guinea pigs for the way cricket could be played for the immediate future, they and CWI should be receiving extra compensation.

    In fact, pandemic or not, visiting teams need to get something from away series. Without an opponent, the home team has no content for their broadcast partners.

    In boxing, for example, should promoters be able to put together a fight between Mike Tyson and me, we would all agree that Tyson would command the bulk of the revenue. After all, he is who they would come to see. However, a reasonable argument could be made that I should be paid fairly for having the daylights knocked out of me.

    It definitely takes two to tango.

    A couple of years ago, under the Dave Cameron presidency, CWI proposed changes to the current model of wealth distribution in world cricket but those were rejected as being unworkable.

    Correctly citing that competitive balance is critical to the appeal of the sport, Cameron argued that: “Broadcasters and viewers are not willing to see international cricket because they are getting to see their stars anyway in the IPL or CPL. As a result, international rights have been devalued, except in the big market, which is India, England and Australia. So, 20 per cent of each series should go to the visiting teams.”

    The problem with this proposal is that given what the big teams would have to pay over at the end of a tour, there would not be equitable reciprocation when their teams visit the smaller-market teams rendering it impractical.

    Mumbai Mirror writer Vijay Tagore explains it like this. In a column published on May 11, he said Star pays India about U$10 million for every international match. If the West Indies plays six matches on tour, then they would earn US$12million for the tour. When India tours the West Indies, India would earn much less from their 20 per cent take.

    Under the current status quo, the International Cricket Council (ICC) generates income from the tournaments it organizes, like the Cricket World Cup. Most of that money goes out to its members.

    So, for example, sponsorship and television rights of the World Cup brought in over US$1.6 billion between 2007 and 2015. Sponsorship and membership subscriptions also generate a few extra million.

    However, the ICC gets no income from Test matches, One Day International and Twenty20 Internationals. In this scenario, the host country gets the money earned from its broadcast partners and sponsorship as well as gate receipts.

    A breakdown of the money distributed from the ICC shows that for the period 2016 to 2023, based on forecasted revenues and costs, the BCCI will receive US$293 million across the eight-year cycle, ECB (England) US$143 million, Zimbabwe Cricket US$94 million and the remaining seven Full Members, including the West Indies, US$132 million each.

    Associate members will receive US$280m.

    For the CWI that equates to US$16.5 a year. In addition, CWI will generate money from broadcasts of home series. However, not every home series makes ‘good money’. Based on my conversations with CWI CEO Johnny Grave, CWI only makes money when England and India tour the West Indies.

    What that means is that when teams like Bangladesh, Pakistan and Zimbabwe visit, CWI loses money.

    According to an ICC Paper submitted by CWI in October 2018: The revenue is inextricably linked to the nature of the tours hosted in a member country. It is also linked to the existence of a host broadcaster to exploit media revenues.

    “Media values for members vary: the West Indies does not have a host broadcaster, mainly because of the size of its market.”

    According to the paper, in 2008 the West Indies revenue was US$19.6m. In 2009, revenue jumped to US$48 and then in 2010, it fell to US$24.2 million. Media rights in 2017 amounted to US$22million but fell precipitously to US$987,000 by the end of the financial year for 2018.

    Meanwhile, player salaries remain constant, money goes into grassroots programmes, player development, tournament match fees and salaries, coaches and coaching development, as well as support for the territorial boards. In bad years, these costs easily exceed any revenue generated.

    The current model is simply unsustainable but solutions are hard to come by. In the Caribbean, sponsorship is hard to come by. Stadia remain empty because the West Indies does not win consistently enough to bring the crowds back, and for the most part, the ‘stars’ don’t play in regional competitions meaning fans stay away.

    Meanwhile, the peaks and troughs in earnings against the costs associated with what is required to maintain a competitive international cricket programme, demonstrates in part why there needs to be a better way; why there needs to be a more equitable way to distribute money generated from bilateral series.

    For the smaller market teams, it amounts to a hand-to-mouth existence that keeps them poor and uncompetitive. And frankly, that’s simply not cricket.

     

     

     

     

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.