Soccer market’s high potential
The Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture has been quiet about how the new Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium will be officially opened. Within the sporting circle a rumor about a religious service surfaced. If the ministry was contemplating that, it appears now that the negative feedback has snuffed out such a possibility.
It’s not that the sporting community in this country is not religious. The big point is more that a sports event should herald the excellent facility to the world.
Soccer is the sport that looks to fit the bill. Although the Bahamas Football Association (BFA) has been sort of in the background while the Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations (BAAA) has been more prominently associated with the national stadium, it is the former that could grab the huge spotlight, perhaps as early as December of this year.
A regional or international track and field event is not likely for the stadium until 2013.
For soccer, on the other hand, is the prospect of world-class competition sanctioned by the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA). There is this fantastic opportunity for the stadium to get a professional soccer taste in some form.
It could be through elite teams out of Europe coming in for FIFA-sanctioned exhibitions. There is also the option of the BFA attracting national squads from around the region, here for a round-robin extravaganza with The Bahamas included.
Add to that the ‘bonanza’ concept of a Major League Soccer (MLS) franchise being based here in The Bahamas with the national stadium as its home. MLS started in 1993 and some 18 teams based in the United States and Canada make up the league. The Bahamas could very well end up being that third nation involved with MLS.
It is this background that makes the BFA favored over the BAAA to stage the initial big-time event, in the new stadium. The benefits for soccer in particular and the national sports program in general could be huge. A professional soccer team based here would have the potential to fuel millions of dollars into our economy. This would be through accommodations for visiting teams and the other financial-driven elements that surround a home-based professional team.
The view here is that the BFA will do its part and more to make the kind of contacts for all of the aforementioned to happen.
Will the BFA get the support in kind from the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture?
That’s the big question.
I have lamented often in this space the lackadaisical attitude of the powers that be. The Chinese finished their part of the national stadium project in June.
They handed over a state of the art facility. Unfortunately, the local side couldn’t keep up and it looks like it will be a stretch now for the sewerage system to be completed in time to accommodate a special soccer event before the end of the year.
The possibility exists but the Government of The Bahamas must make the stadium a definite priority. Can Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Charles Maynard make that case to his colleagues in the Cabinet of The Bahamas?
Minister Maynard and his team are under the microscope.
It’s been three months now since the Chinese finished their mission and the gift to the Bahamian people just sits there like an albatross. The situation is an urgent one.
There is the sewerage system. The roads leading to the stadium, the parking lots, and the landscaping are all behind schedule in the big picture.
No marketing team is yet in place. The Sports Authority is not up and running. Much still must be done if Bahamians are to see a grand opening of the National Stadium with a soccer event in 2011.
(To respond to this column kindly contact Fred Sturrup at firstname.lastname@example.org).