FORMER Jamaica Tallawahs Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Jefferson Miller says while the brand is a massive pull factor, the ownership team had no option but to relinquish the franchise in exchange for what is expected to be greener pastures in Antigua & Barbuda.
For years the Tallawahs management team and the organisers of Caribbean Premier League (CPL) have lamented the lack of support — financial and otherwise — from the Jamaican Government.
Jamaica has not hosted a CPL Twenty20 (T20) match since 2019. And during the 2023 season the three-time former winners, who last lifted the title in 2022, were the only ones in the six-team tournament to not have a home venue.
It came as little surprise to many observers when news broke late last week that the Kris Persaud-led ownership — which had been in charge since 2017 — had given up the Tallawahs and will instead head an Antigua-based franchise in the 2024 CPL.
“I’m disappointed we’re [no longer] associated with the Tallawahs. The brand is a gigantic brand, a global brand,” Miller told the Jamaica Observer during a telephone interview.
“Winning the CPL last year was the highlight for us, after struggling the two years before that.”
But he said it had become financially unsustainable for Florida-based Guyanese Persaud to run the franchise, as partnership discussions CPL organisers and the Tallawahs management team held with the Jamaican Government bore little to no fruit.
“All the franchises get the support — whether in kind or the financial support — from the respective [governments]. The Tallawahs were the only ones who were not receiving that kind of support,” Miller said.
“For the past three years the Tallawahs are the only ones who have not played at home… how disappointing that was. Especially this year after winning the championship last year, we didn’t get to defend the title in front of our fans in Jamaica.
“We had the opportunity to start a new franchise in Antigua and we took that opportunity. It’s unfortunate. It’s hard to sustain the Tallawahs in Jamaica without the support; it was difficult.
“We know the [Jamaican] Government probably had other situations that needed funding more than the Tallawahs; they don’t see the value that the Tallawahs brought,” he lamented.
Miller, who was largely reluctant to provide monetary figures, said the franchise last received “funding of significance” from the Andrew Holness-led Jamaica Labour Party Government in 2019.
The former Tallawahs CEO said about US $7,000 was made available to the franchise in 2020, which was the last time they had “received anything”.
Miller said that though there was a signed sponsorship agreement with the Government for the 2023 campaign, to his knowledge the franchise is yet to receive those funds.
“I’m not with the Tallawahs anymore so I don’t know what’s going to happen with the funding that was promised,” he added.
In the past, Jamaica’s Sport Minister Olivia Grange had expressed the Government’s willingness to forge a mutually beneficial relationship with the franchise.
However, on Saturday she acknowledged that the Government’s efforts might have fallen short of the mark.
“We have given support — [though] they may not have considered it sufficient — but we have given support,” she told the Observer while stating she “wouldn’t want to make any further comment at this time”.
In recent times the Jamaican Government has been heavily criticised for seemingly turning its back on cricket.
Earlier this year Dr Akshai Mansingh, dean of the Faculty of Sport at The University of the West Indies, said the Government was “anti-cricket”, after the country did not bid to host games for the 2024 T20 World Cup to be jointly hosted in the Caribbean and the United States.
Jamaica Cricket Association Vice-President Dr Donovan Bennett was also scathing, blaming both the Government and the Opposition People’s National Party for being “culpable” in the country’s failure to bid.
West Indies T20 Captain Rovman Powell, a Jamaican, led the Tallawahs to the 2022 CPL crown. He recently said Cricket West Indies and the Jamaican Government “really have to sit down and have a conversation”.
Former Jamaica and West Indies cricketer Nehemiah Perry told the Observer that the absence of the Jamaican franchise is a blow to the CPL.
“It’s sad, very, very sad that [Jamaica] has no team in the CPL. I know the leadership of the Tallawahs has been crying out for help or some sort of support from the Jamaican Government. It’s a big business and it’s very difficult to run a franchise. It’s a big disappointment to the fans and to others whom I’m sure would like to have a Jamaican franchise in the CPL,” Perry said.
ESPNCricinfo quoted a CPL spokesperson as saying the intention is to have a Jamaica-based franchise return to the tournament.
“The CPL remains committed to having a team based in Jamaica, but this will be in 2025 at the earliest,” the quote read.