Jamie Stewart Commercial Director for the Caribbean Premiere League T20 (CPLT20) is very much about the Caribbean. Notwithstanding he has spent the better part of his life as a cricketer in Australia and now one with a vision to make the CPL the biggest event in the Caribbean rivaled only by Carnival. Incidentally, when we first spoke last month Stewart had just completed number one on his bucket list-an intense week of partying in Trinidad & Tobago during their carnival celebrations.
Caribbean Premier League is a franchise-based T20 format cricket tournament that combines cricket with the vibrant Carnival atmosphere. The inaugural CPL, billed as “the Biggest Party in Sport”, featured six teams competing throughout the region in August 2013. The event’s main sponsor was Limacol but the inaugural event was also backed by Digicel both of whom are on board again this year. And the Jamaica Tallawahs, captained by Chris Gayle, emerged as champions last year.
Asked about his purpose for being in Saint Lucia Jamie Stewart said at the time that he was on a “sweep” through the islands. “In those islands we have franchises we are here to engage the local corporate community,’ Stewart told the STAR. “Here in Saint Lucia were are looking to drum up as much corporate support for the Zouks this year. At the end of the day CPL is a business. We need the local community and both the Government and local corporate entities to come around and support the team so it justifies having a franchises here,” he added. Stewart went on to explain that the franchise teams can move around and a lot depended on the level of financial support they received from a particular island.
In terms of support for the league last year the commercial director said that generally they were satisfied with those who took the leap of faith with them.
“We were delighted you know that some of the biggest corporate entities in the Caribbean really came out to support. We had great support from Guyana-we had Limacol coming in as title sponsor and Eldorado rum coming in as well. We also had good support out of Trinidad and Jamaica, which was also very heartening. So we had no complains, people really did come out and some of the largest corporate entities answered the call,” Stewart says.
However in terms of Saint Lucia, he said that last year regrettably the corporate support was not as good even though the fans really came out in their numbers. “We didn’t get a lot of support here quite frankly and this is something I am here to try to address. Everyone at CPL loves Saint Lucia and so this year we hope we can get the government and corporate support to justify having the franchise here for a longer term.” Antigua, Jamie Stewart confessed has also been a challenge.
Last month CPL released the results of an economic impact study which stated that it had generated a combined figure of US$105.6 million across the region. The study was done by the University of the West Indies (UWI). The estimated total economic impact of CPL 2013 for each host country is Antigua, US$7.35m; Barbados, US$9.1m; Guyana, US$4m; Jamaica, US$10.65m; Trinidad, US$12.85m, St Lucia US$7.3m.
“This event was just one huge advertisement for the region,” Stewart expressed. “The global viewership was astounding and the little vignets we would include on the various islands really helped to market the Caribbean,” he added. Discussions over Television rights for this year’s event the STAR was informed is still ongoing. “We are expecting to have a UK announcement soon, but we are still committed to being on free in the Caribbean. We are also working on bringing in new international broadcast partners from Sri Lanka, Bangladseh, Pakistan and Canada,” Stewart revealed. He also told us that this year organizers intend on keeping the ticket prices very affordable.
“Our focus is to create something that everyone can enjoy and attend if they want to. This year we also expect the games to be even more exciting and we should be making an announcement soon about another big celebrity superstar who has bought into the league,” we were also told.
For last year’s CPL T20 actor Mark Wahlberg became a shareholder in the Barbados Tridents and Gerald Butler the Jamaica Tallawahs.
“Having two of the biggest movie stars in the world involved in premiere league cricket is pretty extraordinary. It’s an amazing thing for the league and the region. We saw Butler at the finals last year and he tweeted that it was the best few days of his life,” Stewart says.
As far as the teams are concerned Stewart says the goal is definitely by the start of the season to have at least three of the six privately owned if not all of the six.
“So all in all we are here to stay we are now part of the farbric of the Caribbean and we want to say to the rest of the world that these are exciting times for the Caribbean and that we are open for business and that the CPL is one of the go to events each year, Stewart closed by saying.
Just weeks after our interview the LIMACOL CPL 2014 teams were finalized. The “live” draft event took place
last Thursday in Kingston, Jamaica.
Simon Crosskill said; “It was a pleasure to be a part of the CPL player Draft event and I’m happy we could host it in Jamaica, the home of the reigning champions, the Jamaica Tallawahs. With the Draft complete, we can now look forward to all the drama, action and entertainment in July and August as the biggest party in sport returns.”
The tournament returns in July when Jamaica Tallawahs defend their title against the Saint Lucia Zouks, Trinidad & Tobago Red Steel, Antigua Hawksbills, Guyana Amazon Warriors and Barbados Tridents.
The CPL attracted over 250,000 spectators last year across Antigua, Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, Trinidad and St Lucia, while a global TV audience of 36 million were entertained.