RYAN BACHOO
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A loud cheer rang out on the night of March 30 when president of Guyana Dr Mohamed Irfaan Ali announced his country had committed to hosting the Hero Caribbean Premier League (CPL) T20 finals for the next three years.

Having been there before, T&T’s CPL fans know the ecstasy of securing such finals.

The tournament has become hugely popular in both countries.

The franchise representing T&T, the Trinbago Knight Riders (TKR), has won the title four times.

And the finals have been held in T&T on six occasions, four times at the Brian Lara stadium and twice at the Queen’s Park Oval.

The Guyana Amazon Warriors franchise has made five finals, albeit, without ever winning the trophy.

None of the nine tournament finals was ever held in Guyana.

But that is now about to change.

This September, Guyana will host the final for the first time.

The long-term staging agreement will see the culmination of the tournament also taking place in Guyana in 2023 and 2024.

However, beyond the cheers of cricket fans, such a long-term commitment and deep investment by Guyana goes well beyond the cricket field.

It is understood that T&T paid US$1 million each of the three years it hosted the CPL finals between 2018 and 2020. The payment was both in cash and in kind.

Yet, the COVID-19 pandemic shows the risks involved in making such long-term decisions and commitments.

In 2020, the entire tournament was played in a bubble in Trinidad and no fans were allowed to watch TKR go the entire tournament unbeaten, a first in the competition’s history.

The CPL gave the Sunday Business Guardian an insight into what goes into such decisions.

Pete Russell, its CEO, said, “There is intense competition for the right to host the closing stages of the tournament for obvious reasons and CPL needs to consider both short-term (financial) and long-term (brand) objectives.

Guyana has a clear plan on how they will use CPL to build a new entertainment product–Cricket Carnival–that will be for the benefit of everyone over the next three years.”

The Guyana government is adamant the benefits of such an investment (which Russell says specific numbers are “never discussed”) must bear fruit for more than just the cricketing fraternity in the country.

“We want the entire region to be prosperous, and we are building something here to bring the region together. So, what you will see is a plan that will bring the best carnival bands in the region on the shores of Guyana in a clash of the Carnival champions from Miami, T&T, Jamaica, Barbados, Brazil, Guyana. We will bring them together on the shores of Guyana in the grand event in the region, the Cricket Carnival 2022,” Ali said.

President Ali announced at the launch on March 30 the Cricket Carnival will feature a regional food festival, a regional as well as an international concert and a Guyana Night. The country’s Ministry of Tourism is working on launching a special CPL Cricket Carnival Cruise to Guyana to help people who might have problems getting flights to the two weeks of activities.

Ali urged all of Guyana to be part of welcoming the rest of the world to the event which will be a new product for the country.

“Cricket is much more than a game for us in Guyana, it is a passion, part of our culture and a unifying force. As we celebrate One Guyana, the hosting of the CPL final will be an energising force.

We are building a product that will be spectator focused, integrated with our regional partners for a global market. Cricket Carnival is a fusion of entertainment and celebration that will be mind blowing and unbelievably different from any other global cricketing event. We welcome all to the greatest celebration of music, pageantry, Caribbean vibes with a South American touch and, of course, cricket played loudest,” Ali stated.

What Guyana is doing with its investment is leveraging it, something Kurtis Rudd, the CEO of Tourism Trinidad Ltd (TTL), says is critical.

“It’s not just a case of putting out that money and investing, you have to leverage it as well. You can’t just sponsor an event and say you are a sponsor, you have to invest probably equal amount of money, time and resources in that sponsorship value to leveraging and activating the event,” Rudd told the Sunday Business Guardian.

TTL was heavily involved in marketing T&T to the world during the years in which the finals were played in this country. He said even when the tournament was relegated to a bio-secure bubble in 2020 because of the pandemic, numbers were still on their side.

“The sponsorship value that we would have gotten from that was worth over US$51 million,” Rudd said.

While many countries around the world face economic uncertainty, Guyana is projected to expand by 49.7 per cent this year, according to the latest edition of the World Bank’s Global Economic Prospects.

With such news, Guyana will be competing against the region well off the field.

Rudd added, “It is no secret that we compete in the Caribbean in terms of our sports, beaches, Carnival, and Guyana has made a bold statement in competing, I guess, for the sports capital of the region.”

While Guyana has never hosted the finals of the CPL before, officials seem bent on building (and perhaps bettering) on the experiences from finals in Trinidad.

Rudd said, “Guyana would have seen the value that we would have gotten from hosting the CPL.

There is no one who can claim Carnival in sports like us but they’ve understood that model that we would have developed and tried to build on it.”

Rudd says the opportunity for economic diversification is there with the CPL.

He confirmed in 2019, 489 jobs were created in T&T. There was a total of 10,642 room nights, 3,500 Caribbean attendees visited T&T for the matches while 1,010 international tourists came to our shores.

The country also got 461 hours of brand exposure. Aware of this, Guyana, which can now afford to host the biggest party in sport, seems willing to use it to drive its economy in a more diversified direction.

This season, Guyana will host seven group games, three knockout matches and the Hero CPL final which will take place on Friday September 30 at The Guyana National Stadium in Providence.

Last year’s entire CPL tournament was held at Warner Park, Basseterre, St Kitts & Nevis.

According to the CPL the total value delivered to St Kitts & Nevis from the 2021 Hero CPL was US$88.7 million.

“This figure comes from organiser spend, visitor spend and sponsorship value. The report detailing all the deliverables was compiled by independent and world-leading research company, YouGov Sport,” it stated.

“The total economic impact value for St Kitts & Nevis was US$8,990,210, with the direct spend being US$3,329,707. This figure takes into account the total spent by Hero CPL to put on the 2021 event as well as the money spent with local business by those who travelled into St Kitts & Nevis for the tournament, either independently or as part of CPL’s franchise teams,” it stated.

The total spent to organise the CPL in St Kitts & Nevis during the tournament was US$2,250,725 with local suppliers and businesses being the beneficiaries.

“St Kitts and Nevis also enjoyed huge exposure from the global broadcast of the tournament, a sponsorship value of US$79,707,790 being generated; the most any host country has ever received. A combination of innovative and engaging advertising throughout the Hero CPL broadcast, including branding and tourism vignettes, ensured St Kitts & Nevis was given the opportunity to promote itself to a vast global audience,” it stated.

The total viewership figure for CPL 2021 was 517.4 million, with the tournament passing half a billion viewers for the second successive year.