David Roper's passing a great loss to West Indies cricketThursday, May 06, 2021
BY SUNIL RAMDEEN
On Sunday, April 25, 2021 a gentleman by the name of David Roper said his final goodbyes, going on to join the legends of cricket in that great Oval in the sky, but leaving a gap that will be hard to fill.
Anyone close to the game, from administrator to player or loyal fan, will know the tremendous impact David Roper has had on West Indies cricket over the past three decades. A Jamaican by birth, but a West Indian citizen by choice and deed, he was, up to his passing, the director of industry relations at Sandals Resorts International (SRI) and the driving force behind the current partnership between Sandals and Cricket West Indies.
Roper's deep passion for the game, both as a fan and as a sponsor, compelled him to become a key behind-the-scenes player in the region, and one of the most loved and respected individuals to all those who knew him. His booming laughter, quick wit, and genuine concern for all he interacted with left a lasting impression.
Along with his brother, Brian Roper, another West Indies super fan and the current general manager of Sandals Ochi Beach Resort, he revelled in the years of West Indian dominance, and suffered through the lean years. But not for one moment did he lose hope in the regional side.
It was no surprise, therefore, upon learning of the abrupt end of the sponsorship arrangement between Cricket West Indies and its former partner that Roper swiftly advocated for Sandals to fill that gap. He got the endorsement of late Sandals Chairman Gordon “Butch” Stewart, who was himself an ardent fan of the West Indies, and subsequently that of current Executive Chairman Adam Stewart.
Of course, this was not the first time Roper had been behind a Sandals/Windies alliance. Speaking about the relationship between Sandals and the West Indies in an interview during the West Indies tour of England in 2019, he remarked that the company was very proud of the rich brand of cricket the West Indies teams had been delivering and happy to be associated with the current team.
“When you look around you would see some of the great players of the past, and now we have the current and future of this brand called West Indies coming through. This is not our first foray in sponsoring West Indies cricket. In fact, it is the third time that we are sponsoring the team, and we are very happy with the association.”
The first time Roper aligned Sandals with West Indies cricket was back in 1994/95, and then again a couple years later. In fact, he is well remembered for helping pioneer numerous innovations in terms of branding and sponsorship which redefined the way cricket was enjoyed by the fans.
Dr Nigel Camacho, one of the founding members of the world-famous Trini Posse fan group and an ardent supporter of West Indies cricket, reflects on one game-changer that Roper helped introduce:
“I first met David back in 1997/98. We toyed with the idea of putting a pool in the party stand in Trinidad at the Queen's Park Oval. I asked the then General Manager Joey Carew and we met, the three of us; David, Joey, myself. And we agreed. Joey mentioned it to Bryan Davis, who said 'over my dead body we will have a pool at a Test match'. But then David used his charm on these guys, explaining the idea of associating the festive atmosphere at Caribbean cricket with what Sandals wanted the viewers on TV to see. The rest was history, David got his wish and the images made shock waves across the world.”
Roper's keen understanding of the need to enhance the experience for fans — borne out of his background of delivering luxury service with Sandals — had a profound impact on the match day experience of not just regional, but global fans, such as England's famous Barmy Army, who were delighted with the idea of having a pool at the games. It was an idea Roper resuscitated during England's last tour of the West Indies in 2019.
Chief executive officer of Cricket West Indies (CWI) Johnny Grave reflected on how meticulous Roper was in terms of ensuring Sandals got maximum branding, even as it added value to the team as principal partner. In fact, recognising the impact of empty stadiums on the sponsor as a result of COVID-19 restrictions, Roper was engaged in discussions with CWI that would lead to agreement on yet another innovation — allowing the sponsor brand on the front of the test team kit for the tour of England. It allowed the sponsor to capitalise on the TV market and has been picked up by several teams.
According to Johnny Grave, “David was an outstanding human being, genuinely one of life's good guys, and we are all devastated at this heartbreaking news. His unrelenting positivity and fighting spirit throughout a long battle with illness was remarkable, and our only solace is that he is now in peace in a better place.”
For those who worked alongside him at Sandals, Roper's impact was just as profound and indelible, and his passing has been a tremendous loss for the organisation. Executive Chairman Adam Stewart remembered him thus:
“Because of him we are a better organisation; more capable and more innovative. He spent his life spreading his love of the Caribbean… worldwide. To know David Roper and to be with him was to have fun. His infectious laugh, incredible sense of humour, and kind heart will never be forgotten. David was the gentleman's gentleman. He will be deeply missed by all of us, especially his Sandals family.”
That sense of mourning has also extended to his wider cricket family.
The normally exuberant Peter Matthews, easily recognised by the tall maroon hat he wears at all West Indies games, and considered as the number one West Indies fan, was inconsolable when he learnt of the passing of his dear friend.
“I was deeply saddened to hear of David's untimely passing. He is someone I have been friends with for over 20 years, and I always tried my best to assist him in promoting the Sandals brand around the Caribbean. I remember when he first came out with idea of the party pools.
“David Roper was a West Indies fan first and foremost, and then a proud sponsor of West Indies cricket on behalf of Sandals. His love for the game made his job a lot easier. David was loved by all of the West Indies fans who got to know him personally, especially the UK posse whom he always interacted with,” said Matthews.
Upon learning of Roper's passing, the London-based 'Windies Posse' lamented: “We are deeply saddened by the news of David's passing. From all of us… our heartfelt condolence goes out to the family. Our thoughts and prayers are with them during this difficult time. Our collective hearts are heavy with sympathy.”
Cricket aside, Roper was also an ardent supporter of Chelsea Football Club, although it might be fair to say he also agonised over their mixed fortunes of late.
David Roper first joined the Sandals family in 1986 as general manager of the newly acquired Sandals Royal Caribbean, before moving to SRI head offices, where his intellect, charm and magnetic personality made him the consummate ambassador, “playing an integral role in forging key relationships with not only regional industry partners and stakeholders, but also with critical international partners across the globe” — Cricket West Indies being one of those closest to his heart.
There can be no doubt that Caribbean and West Indies cricket has lost a stalwart and a champion, a true son of the game.
David Roper, March 20, 1955 – April 25, 2021: An innings well played; well played, indeed!
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