The kind of thinking that will help sport

The kind of thinking that will help sport

Saturday, January 09, 2021

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This newspaper has often found reason to highlight the value of sponsorship in keeping organised sport alive, from lowly community leagues to high-profile global events.

Sport, without doubt, has contributed immensely to the brand of many a business entity. But outside of the immediate potential for boosting profit, there are those in business who support sport, first and foremost, as means to promoting harmony, good vibe,s and healthy nurturing of the human spirit.

Without doubt, Mr Gordon “Butch” Stewart, empire builder, co-founder and owner of this newspaper, who died on Monday, understood the 'ins and outs', costs and benefits of sponsorship partnerships in sport.

Quite correctly, much has been made of Mr Stewart's support of West Indies cricket through his flagship, world-renowned hotel group, Sandals. Lead sponsorship of the West Indies team, begun in 2018, is the latest such venture, but Sandals also supported West Indies tours of England in 1995 and the early 2000s, and sponsored the regional one-day limited overs tournament in the 1990s.

Also, it must not be forgotten that Mr Stewart, through his businesses, supported leagues and youth development programmes in an array of sports locally, including football, netball, basketball, and cricket.

Former head of the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF), the late Captain Horace Burrell, never grew weary of hailing Mr Stewart's contribution to football in St James. The example set by the Sandals brand in support of football was one all hoteliers should follow, Captain Burrell often said.

In St Mary, support from Sandals led to a revival of competitive cricket in that parish, as president of that parish's cricket association, Mr Ian Spencer, can readily testify.

At the higher level, Mr Stewart's love affair with West Indies cricket was to the fore when he came to the aid of the down and out regional team two years ago.

It was a love affair nurtured during his formative years in the 1950s, when the 'Three Ws' Sir Frank Worrell, Sir Everton Weeks and Sir Clyde Walcott and those 'Two little pals of mine' Messrs Alf Valentine and Sonny Ramadhin were among the standard-bearers on the world stage.

And, as Mr Stewart came to adulthood at the turn of the 1960s, even as the English-speaking Caribbean hurtled towards political independence, he would have watched as young cricketers only a few years older than he, such as the incomparable Sir Garfield Sobers, Messrs Rohan Kanhai, Lance Gibbs, Wes Hall, et al, reinforced Caribbean mastery of the glorious game.

We can safely say that the sense of a Caribbean identity so richly crafted by cricket helped beyond measure as Mr Stewart built his chain of hotels across the region decades later.

Hence his comment after agreeing the sponsorship deal with Cricket West Indies in 2018: “...We (Sandals) are an indigenous company based and operating in the Caribbean, staffed predominantly at every level by people of the region, and it is important that Caribbean cricket is sponsored and supported by a Caribbean organisation...”

That's the kind of progressive thinking sport in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean will need from all and sundry, as we move forward in the COVID-19 era.


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