While we’re on the topic of sport ...
It’s Cup Match time in Bermuda! After falling victim to the pandemic last year, our beloved two-day holiday is back, albeit with a difference. There is nothing like Cup Match anywhere else in the world. Having a cricket game played on two days of historical importance — Emancipation Day and Mary Prince Day — is a unique and unmatched Bermudian tradition.
I would like to park the tradition aspect to the side, to focus on the importance of sport in a society. It is well known that sport can boost one’s self-esteem, confidence and problem-solving skills. Team sport can teach how to work in a unit more effectively. But what are the tangible benefits that can be measured?
A social return on investment report was produced last month by KNVB, the Dutch FA. In general, SROI is an outcomes-based measurement tool that helps organisations to understand and quantify the social, environmental and economic value they are creating.
In this report, KNVB used the SROI model as a cost-benefit analysis that enables the government and various other stakeholders to evaluate the social values of amateur football. This specific Uefa model was developed with the support of nine European universities, and is based on data on football participation in 25 European countries and on more than 100 peer-reviewed research articles in various disciplines such as health, education, employment, sociology and sport.
The SROI report shows savings on healthcare costs, training and education, an increase in labour productivity, and a decrease in absenteeism owing to illness and crime prevention. The total social value to the Dutch society is 5.23 billion euros annually — social impact (1.42 billion), contribution to the economy (1.27 billion), and savings on healthcare (2.54 billion).
To put the numbers in perspective, the Netherlands has a 285 billion euros economy, and the government spends about 80 billion on healthcare. When you consider the social value numbers presented do not include those derived from other popular amateur sports such as field hockey, gymnastics and tennis, the overall total social value would be significant.
In Bermuda, we have not measured the impact of sport in our society in detail, not to my knowledge anyway. Using the KNVB’s SROI report as an example, it shows what is possible. It also shows why countries such as the Netherlands are so committed in sport, as there are quantifiable benefits.
We need to discuss how Bermuda approaches sport and examine how tradition holds us back in development and participation. We tend to believe what has brought us success in the past will bring us the same in the future.
Take for instance cricket, one of Bermuda’s more widely played sports, which is the centrepiece of Cup Match. The regular season for cricket usually takes place from the middle of April to the middle of September. That is only five months out of a year that most of our cricketers are plying their trade — or, putting it another way, seven months they are not. Besides the very few cricketers that play overseas, this is not enough.
In contrast, cricket in Barbados, as an example, is played throughout the year. Their domestic league is from May to November (six months), and a Barbados select team participates in the annual West Indies four-day championship (three months), Caribbean Premier League (one month), and Super50 one-day competition (one month).
At the very least, we need to change our tradition and expand our relatively short cricket season, giving those that participate more time to play, more time to hone their craft, and more time to simply get better. For those who believe being part-time cricketers was good enough for Bermuda to excel before, that was then, and this is now. Other countries have changed and improved while we remained stagnant.
One of the main reasons why cricket has a short season is because our two national sports, cricket and football, have to accommodate each other. As cricket season is April to September, and the football season is September to March, when one sport ends the same field must be prepared for the next sport and vice versa.
For Bermuda cricketers to maximise their potential on the island, we must break the tradition and lengthen the season. One way of accomplishing this is by allocating some of the sports fields for cricket only. This would give the opportunity of those players who are interested to be involved in other tournaments after the regular season.
By having fields dedicated for cricket only, this could pave the way in allocating other fields for football only. By not having to change from football to cricket, the playing surface could be replaced by artificial turf, which has many advantages over grass. Like cricket, our football season also needs to be extended. Amateur football in Europe is played nine months out of the year, compared with our season, which is only six months.
There are other changes that can help improve the social value from our sports. We need to find a way to get older teens, young people, and those not so young with healthy knees to continue to play. There is a drop-off as soon as the magical age of 16 comes around. We could incentivise some players by offering more scholarships to various sports camps, and coaches that have earned the required credentials should be encouraged and compensated for their time and expertise.
By no means is this a type of plan; it is more of a change of mindset. Bermuda needs to decide on its place in sport and where it wants to be. Do we care enough to take our sports up a few levels that would benefit the participants and the community? Our culture does not treat sport as a priority. It is usually up to individuals or parents to create a path for those who have ambition, often at great expense and sacrifice.
To highlight a statistic that can act as inspiration, the Netherlands has 1.2 million football players registered. This works out to be 7 per cent of the population. The equivalent percentage for Bermuda would be 4,500 football players. I am not certain if we have that many participants in all our organised sports put together. As I see it, this is an opportunity for growth.
I hope everyone enjoys their Cup Match. Like all my opinions, I like to have a balanced and fair view, and the Cup Match classic is no different. I hope we have two days of sunshine, some good cricket is played by both teams, and may the better team win.
I am just kidding — up de Somerset!
• Malcolm Raynor has worked in the telecommunications industry in Bermuda for more than 30 years. Benefiting from Cable & Wireless’ internal training and education programmes held in Bermuda, Barbados, St Lucia (The University of the West Indies), and the UK, he rose to the level as senior vice-president. An independent thinker possessing a moderate ideology, his opinions are influenced by principle, data and trends