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A Tragicomedy Beyond the Boundary

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The Digicel Connection

There is definitely never a dull moment in West Indies cricket. It takes different forms and shapes, but these days it assumes the status of a tragicomedy.

The drama is as much off the field as on. Sometimes one wants to laugh but it is serious business, with the pride, hopes and expectations of West Indians at stake. {{more}}I am not going to focus on what is currently happening in the one day games, but as I write, the hopes of West Indies are very much in the air, in the hands of Gayle and captain Chanderpaul. But that is another matter for another time.

This country is due to host the first one-day international against Pakistan on Wednesday, May 18, but the controversy has already started and it is of course off the field. I have always maintained that a large share of the blame for the ill-fortunes of West Indies cricket lies with the administration. They are at it again and it appears that their partnership with Digicel is likely to produce not only the recolonisation of cricket but to have repercussions beyond the boundary.

I was struck, first of all by an article in the issue of the Searchlight of May 6, which appeared under the caption ‘Tight security for Arnos Vale field’. I guess that in today’s world we have to get accustomed to matters such as the frisking with metal detectors and the searching of bags, back packs etc. This is of course all part of regulations for the World Cup. In our context it is all a big joke, but our big brothers who have gone stone crazy say we have to do it and so we do, sometimes even going to the ridiculous.

So we surrender on the point of security precautions. But let us quote the Searchlight on another item: “Among the new arrangements for the Digicel series, no one will be permitted in the ground with any visible insignia of other rival telecommunications provider.” This means, I would imagine, not wearing a Cable & Wireless T-shirt that we wore so proudly before at our ODI matches. It can perhaps be interpreted to mean not using a Cable & Wireless cell-phone. I don’t know how far they are going with this but I am wondering too what would happen with the Cable & Wireless box.

Are they going to be prevented from putting any marks on their box identifying who they are? All of this we are told is to prevent ‘ambush marketing’. Ambush marketing my foot! It is these multi-national companies again. They use the money which they have ripped off from us to sponsor events and then expect that we will all grovel.

I am not sure how the law stands with this, but will Digicel be allowed to dictate what we wear to cricket? These are not security matters. They are part of the games being played as everything becomes market driven. Furthermore no one is allowed to buy more than three tickets. I imagine that this is meant to be a measure to prevent scalping, but it is equally absurd. Obviously there will have to be exceptions.

If a company decides to buy tickets in bulk to distribute to say students, will they have to seek special permission? If persons at an office decide to buy their tickets together and arrange for, say, the office attendant or whoever to go and buy the tickets will he/she have to have something signed by all of those for whom the tickets are bought? I was asked for my ID when I went to buy my ticket. What for? Is it that if my name was Abdullah I would not have been sold one?

With the West Indies cricket team doing as badly as it has been doing if we have to go through all this red tape to get to Arnos Vale we might just as well forget it. Why do they have to make things so difficult for us? Is this all part of globalization? Our culture seems to matter no more. We simply have to fit in with what others bigger than us dream about and design. I still want to know the purpose of the ID. Also let us know which of them are regulations for the world cup and which are locally or regionally crafted designs.

Bottlers and the Cricket Association

If all of the above was funny what would you say about the infamous contract between the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Cricket Association and Bottlers (St.Vincent) Limited. I am not going to blame Bottlers but the Association that is so shortsighted and jokey. I have before me a contract between Bottlers (St. Vincent) Limited and I believe, persons who have won the right to establish bars on May 18. This again is threading on dangerous grounds. Let me quote a section of this contract; “2. Bottlers (St. Vincent) Limited reserves the right to remove and seize any bar from the owner that the company have entered into agreement referred to as (b) in this agreement, if found to be selling or have stored in their possession within the sporting complex any other products that is not listed on page 2 (2) of this agreement.”

There are 13 items listed on page 2, that is, items that can be sold. Carib Shandy, Carib Beers Cans, Carib Smalta, Carib Ginseng Up, Mackeson Stout, Pepsi, JUC Flavours, 7-Up, Mount Gay extra old Rum, Mount Gay Eclipse, Mount Gay Premium White, Remy Brandy and Mountain Top Water. A footnote states that consideration ‘may be given on non competing products/drinks not being offered by Bottlers St.Vincent Limited, but wished to be sold by any bar holder. Written permission must be approved and issued by the Sales and Marketing Manager one week in advance before the 18th of May 2005.’ This means that with the exception of JUC Flavours and Mountain Top Water other local drinks will either not be sold or sold only with special permission. With Mount Gay Rums listed it appears that our local rums will be barred unless somehow they get special permission.

Then there is the matter of Hairoun beer and drinks, locally brewed. I am told that in Jamaica Red Stripe beer was sold at the games played there. I believe Banks would have been sold in Barbados because I cannot see Barbadians accepting any such agreement. Could the Hairoun Brewery or any other be granted such an arrangement in Trinidad. After all a beer is a Carib! Would a visitor not be allowed to taste a local beer at cricket? But on a related issue there is talk about who had the franchise. The agreement I have been quoting involves two local bodies. Was this agreement won on the open market? Did other companies send in bids? Were they invited to? All of this stinks and amounts to the case of he who pays the piper calls the tune. Are our administrators blight? At least they can convince us otherwise by clearing up this mess.

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