Rollover has not hurt sports

When the controversial rollover policy was
introduced five years ago many ex-pats who had lived in Cayman felt aggrieved.
It was made law on 1 January 2005 and designed to safeguard jobs for Caymanians.
The timing wasn’t great because it was four months after the devastating
effects of Hurricane Ivan and many ex-pats without strong ties to the Cayman
Islands had left anyway.

The law states that non-Caymanians are only
permitted to reside and work here for a maximum of seven years unless they
satisfy the criteria of key employees. Anyone who is rolled over has to leave
the Islands for a minimum of one year before starting their seven-year stint
afresh.

There was a grace period of a couple of
years for those who had already lived in Cayman for five years but they were
not exempt.

As the seven year period since the start of
the rollover policy edges towards the end of its sixth year, some ex-pats here
are already seriously considering their next move, especially those who enjoy
the marvellous sports facilities in the Cayman Islands.

Football, cricket and rugby are the biggest
team sports on the Island and so far they have generally been only slightly
affected.

Bobby Sairsingh, president of Roma United
Football Club, has mostly Jamaicans in his team. They all have colourful
nicknames like ‘Gaza’, ‘Stammer’, ‘Tallman’ and ‘Old School’. They have a great
team spirit but a high turnover of players partly because of the transient
nature of the work force here in the blue collar trades. Yet the rollover
policy has not greatly affected them.

“Over the past eight years that I’ve been
involved with Roma, I know of only three players who have been affected and one
who will be next year,” says Sairsingh. “The loss of the players to rollover
did not affect the team significantly as the team has always made necessary
adjustments due to the transient nature of the typical Roma footballer. There
was a netball player/manager who was rolled over. It was a significant loss
administratively but our team filled in and achieved our best ever results on
the courts without her.

“The impending loss of our best player next
year is expected to be significant but we are preparing contingencies as our
player/manager will be back. Over the past three years, we have been actively
recruiting young Caymanian players from the diaspora to ensure continuity of
our brand.”

Englishman Neil Purton is a leading figure
with Sunset Football Club, as a player, coach and administrator. He says: “I
can’t think that we have been affected by the rollover at all. I can however
think of some players we would have liked to have rolled over!”

Pete de Vere is a rugby player and the
local rugby union’s press officer for the sport. He agrees that rollover has
not had a profound effect on domestic rugby because the expatriate workforce in
Cayman are fairly transient anyway.

“People come to Cayman to work and play for
a couple of years and then move on,” de Vere says. “Occasionally we find people
who come here and want to make Cayman their home but as far as I can see this
is becoming less and less the case. The result is that Cayman rugby keeps plugging
away.”

He says that it is always sad to see
team-mates leave but there are always new players to take their place. He does
add though that rollover has had a major effect in terms of international
hopes. “Building a team or building a national programme can take many years
and using local rugby as an example, our technical director Richard ‘Grizz’
Adams has recently had his permanent residency application turned down.

“The effect this has is far more reaching
than most might accept because when you’ve been on island for an extended
period of time your skill set is hard to replace, especially in an area such as
this where your work involves hundreds of ex-pats and locals alike who rely on
you to keep these programmes running. People like this cannot be replaced overnight
and indeed the act of replacing them can set back a programme or an association
many years.

“In short, a player or team-mate being
rolled over is hard on a team but you can deal with it, but losing a coach and
a mentor to a term limit policy is disastrous.”

Rowena Lawrence is captain of the women’s
rugby side. She points out a different aspect to rollover and it is one of
attitude in that people know in advance they have only a limited time here so
never really see it as “home”. “People know that they have limited time here so
that they come here with the intention that they will leave after a short time
and return home or elsewhere where they can actually set up a life without the
concern of having to leave. So even though they aren’t rolled over, they never
plan to stay long because of the rollover policy.”

Mark Woollard, team manager of DHL Cayman
Storm rugby team, thinks rollover does affect the morale of a team. “We have
some excellent players who are integral to our team who are planning on leaving
soon and we will struggle with that. We are working so hard to make rugby much
more of a Caymanian sport but with so many demands on Caymanian athletes we
find it difficult to get them to commit to rugby. Due to a reliance on the
ex-pat community, we will face this problem for a while yet.” Currently half
the team is Caymanian and that number seems to be increasing each year He says
that they have lost some talented ex-pats before their time is up and he has
noticed an increase in this since the economic downturn and there are
definitely less ex-pat rugby players on island now compared to 18 months ago.

There are many Caribbean ex-pats in cricket
who work in the police and prison service who could be affected by the rollover
policy eventually. So far it has not been too badly affected.

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