Editorial for 08 August: CONCACAF, score one for Cayman

Sometimes it pays handsomely to have friends in high places, and often times those connections are well worth developing to the fullest extent.

Case in point: CONCACAF president Jeffrey Webb and his ability to channel large ticket sporting events to his native Cayman Islands through his position as a member of the worldwide football governing hierarchy.

Next week, teams from 23 neighbouring countries will descend on Grand Cayman as the island is set to host the region’s first Under-15 football tournament, bringing roughly 700 players and officials to our shores for two weeks of matches as the territory broaches a new chapter as a sports tourism destination. 

On the heels of that, in January, the regional governing body for football in North and Central America and the Caribbean will welcome the CONCACAF Women’s Under-20 Championships to the Cayman Islands, and along with it another contingent of players, officials and visitors, as well as coveted television crews and valuable media exposure.

Organisers predict the entourage of family, friends and support staff from this month’s tournament alone will see the number of visitors swell to around 3,000, with potential for repeat travel and word-of-mouth marketing magnifying the benefit.

This is welcome news.

Residents in the Cayman Islands need not look far to recognise the power of tourism as a driver of economic growth, a tool for development and a provider of employment.

Fortunately, the global tourism industry has shown resilience the past few years, growing despite a stalled worldwide economic recovery, particularly in the eurozone. However, steadily improving numbers are reflected locally via recent stay-over receipts, and estimates for the coming years call for additional growth and increasing tourism spending.

Today, tourism is among the world’s leading industries, while sports is regarded as the No. 1 industry in the leisure sector. Sports is an integral part of all culture, and while often viewed as a separate activity, it is inextricably linked to tourism.

Over the past decade, the global sports industry has seen rapid changes and innovations fuelled by the increase in leisure time and spending, the appetite for spectacle and participation, new distribution methods and the deregulation of the broadcast industry.

Now a multi-billion dollar business, sports tourism has become a vast international enterprise attracting media coverage, foreign investment, political interest and travelling participants and spectators. At all levels, it has a double-barrelled effect – the direct impact of the attendance of the competitors and spectators and those accompanying them, as well as the indirect effect of the marketing of the destination which leads to the subsequent tourism flows. This indirect effect can be large and most of the benefits of big sporting events are expected to be of this nature.

For the Cayman Islands, it is important to bring all stakeholders together in forging a national sports tourism policy. We have to research our sporting and recreational activities to determine which of these seem to possess the best potential for sports tourism development in the territory.

In that regard, Mr. Webb – with his prominent and influential connection to global football authorities at FIFA – is a resource to be utilised.

1 COMMENT

  1. For the Cayman Islands, it is important to bring all stakeholders together in forging a national sports tourism policy. We have to research our sporting and recreational activities to determine which of these seem to possess the best potential for sports tourism development in the territory.

    In that regard, Mr. Webb with his prominent and influential connection to global football authorities at FIFA is a resource to be utilised.

    This is all very true…but with one important drawback…one that Jeffrey Webb has not been very successful in addressing in all his years as CIFA president.

    That drawback is the development and advancement of the local men’s senior game, which remains at the very bottom rung of world amateur, recreational football, as it has always been.

    Why is this important, one might ask ?

    From the perspective of one who’s played football, both in the Cayman Islands and abroad and who now works at professional football clubs in the UK, the legitimacy of a country that now holds the CONCACAF confederation presidency and leadership is being questioned within the world game; something that Mr. Webb would not readily share with the Cayman public.

    Questions are being asked as to how a totally amateur football country like the Cayman Islands, with not even a competitive amateur men’s national team, can have the privileges that CONCACAF are now affording the Cayman Islands.

    Many people in the game are questioning the privileges now being afforded to Cayman through Jeffrey Webb’s position, that the Cayman Islands has not earned on the field of play as a competitive football country.

    They have every right to ask these questions; it appears that Cayman has earned football leadership in CONCACAF through the back door.

  2. Firstly, leadership of Confederations are determined through the democratic process and not based on level of a country’s players if this was the case, countries such as the US and Mexico would always be at the top of the political football ranks. Switzerland does not have a top ranking football league yet the President of FIFA is from Switzerland and was also chosen through the democratic process. It should be viewed as a major credit to the Cayman Islands that Jeff Webb was chosen by the CONCACAF member countries to lead them.

    Having Jeff Webb as the President of CONCACAF should not only be seen as a benefit to the Cayman Islands but to all other small countries as well as he understands football in developing countries and has a deeper understanding on ways to assist these countries and help them to further develop the sport which is the task he has been assigned to do as President of the region.

    The CONCACAF U-15 Tournament is Webb’s brainchild and as this is the inaugural tournament it is only natural that he want to host it in a country within the region that he knows well and is comfortable with the infrastructure, logistics etc

  3. The CONCACAF U-15 Tournament is Webb’s brainchild and as this is the inaugural tournament it is only natural that he want to host it in a country within the region that he knows well and is comfortable with the infrastructure, logistics etc.

    All very true and Jeffrey Webb is and has always been an excellent football administrator.

    His role in FIFA has developed and increased since he was deputy Chair of the Audit Committee, a job he did with great success and excellence.

    He is also now head of the Anti-Racism Task Force, another very important role in the world game, where, especially in Europe, racism is still rampant in certain countries on the Continent and particularly in Eastern Europe.

    Being directly involved in the professional game in England at clubs that are world-famous, should I name them, gives me an ear to the ground.

    All I’ve said is what is being whispered in the football community around the world…it is not an issue the Jeffrey Webb or FIFA need lose any sleep over but…

    Who knows ?

    If Jeff concentrates on bringing up the standard of the competitive men’s game in Cayman and we see a national team that the Cayman Islands can be proud of…

    Those whispers will eventually fade away.

    I, for one, do wish him all the best.

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