NFL Challenge cancelled

DoT expects refund

The NFL Quarterback Challenge will not take place in the Cayman Islands, or indeed anywhere else, this year, the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism and the NFL have both confirmed.

The NFL has decided to take an ‘indefinite hiatus’ on the Quarterback Challenge while it evaluates its programming strategy and concentrates on developing original content, said a DoT press statement.

And the DoT, while it is seeking legal advice on the matter, expects to get a full refund for US$467,000 shelled out in the broken deal.

Director of Communications with the NFL, Brian McCarthy told the Caymanian Compass this week that the NFL is finalising a compensation package for a payment back to the DoT.

The DoT was notified of the NFL’s decision to cancel the quarterback Challenge in late November 2007.

This development came despite the fact that the Cayman Islands agreed to pay more than US$2.2 million to host the Quarterback Challenge in the Cayman Islands for three years, the first being last year.

The DoT confirmed that in keeping with its legal agreement with NFL, two of three scheduled instalments of the first year’s fee had been paid, totalling US$467,000.

‘The NFL’s independent decision to cancel the Quarterback Challenge entirely, even though it has a three year agreement with the Cayman Islands, essentially constitutes a ‘breach of agreement’ and the Department of Tourism has sought legal advice on what options exist for recourse should negotiations not produce a mutually satisfactory outcome,’ said the release.

But the DoT continues to negotiate in good faith and it is expected that a full refund will be received.

‘We have reason to believe that both parties want to resolve this amicably to leave the door open for future partnership opportunities,’ commented the Director of Tourism Pilar Bush. ‘The NFL remains a very powerful American brand, one that provides access to multi-layered opportunities for the Cayman Islands and the NFL, ranging from Cayman Islands product placement in television programming to database marketing, from family travel inspired by NFL celebrities who choose to vacation in the Cayman Islands to opportunities for meeting and incentive travel by the NFL, its sponsors and teams’.

The negotiating team’s first priority is to get cash back for the funds spent, however, there are a number of other platforms that the NFL could offer in addition to cash as a way of making good on the Cayman Islands’ lost opportunities.

The other platforms include:

NFL networks for TV spots;

Spots on other cable networks that have NFL programming such as CBS and ESPN;

Online on NFL.com;

And a series of events marketing opportunities with NFL owned events, e.g. regular season games, playoff games, exhibition games and other events.

The DoT adds that while exposure and benefits received do not in anyway detract from the goal of receiving a full refund; the fact cannot be overlooked that the Cayman Islands received considerable benefit from the partnership in the months leading up to the filming.

DoT pointed out, ‘Cayman had a significant presence at the 2007 NFL Draft in April, hosting a booth alongside such global brands as Sprint, EA Sports and General Motors. The Draft, held in and around Radio City Music Hall in New York, was visited by thousands of fans and, as this event coincided with the launch of the new direct service from JFK, CAL was also able to leverage the partnership to promote its new service.

‘In addition to the booth, the Ministry and Department of Tourism held a joint press conference with the NFL to announce the partnership. The story was picked up in many newspapers and websites across the country, providing considerable exposure for the destination.’

During the event, the DoT hosted a journalist from Sports Illustrated.

‘This was an excellent opportunity and the journalist covered both the event and the destination,’ said the release.

The Cayman Islands was also featured in other media outlets through players discussing their delight at being in the Cayman Islands for the QBC, including a segment on the NFL Network showcasing Washington Redskins Wide Receiver Brandon Lloyd and his support for disabled divers getting certified in Cayman.

Mr. McCarthy told the Caymanian Compass Monday afternoon that the NFL is not holding any skills-based competitions this year, but rather, it is focusing on other major calendar initiatives such as the Combine, Draft, mini camps and training camps.

‘We did not put on the Pro Bowl Skills Challenge (which had been held in early February in Honolulu as part of the Pro Bowl Festivities) and will not have a Quarterback Challenge this off-season,’ he said.

Mr. McCarthy noted that the decision to pull the Quarterback Challenge is no reflection on the Cayman Islands as a host country.

‘We had an excellent experience in the Caymans last year and it was unfortunate that we had to cancel the broadcast of the competition,’ he said.