Is It Time For a Caribbean World Cup?

COULD THE Caribbean ever host a World Cup? Why not?

Earlier this year, Caribbean Journal contributor Ilio Durandis put forth the idea that Haiti could one day host the World Cup.

But that got us thinking — what about the region as a whole, as the Caribbean did for the 2007 Cricket World Cup?

Just imagine — group stages across different islands; knockout rounds held in Antigua, Curacao or Puerto Rico; a World Cup final in Haiti or the Dominican Republic.

The possibilities!

Why not build two facilities in Haiti, and another two in the Dominican Republic, with two each in Jamaica and Trinidad and then one each in Martinique and Guadeloupe along with one in Puerto Rico, one in the Bahamas and one in Trinidad? Or some other combination?

Imagine different groups being played in different parts of the Caribbean, with the knockout round limited to four different islands?

First, the major objection: there are those who would say that the region does not have the infrastructure, or the stadia, necessary to host the event. And it doesn’t.

But neither did Brazil before its bid!

For this year’s World Cup, Brazil built seven new stadia and renovated 5 existing ones, among scores of other infrastructure projects.

Could, for example, existing cricket stadia be renovated and expanded into new World Cup fora?

That’s the point — when countries host the World Cup, they raise the level of their infrastructure  — necessary for hosting.

And if the region received the bid, it would amount to an obligation to build the infrastructure necessary — the kind of infrastructure Caribbean Development Bank President Dr Warren Smith was talking about last week.

Yes, it would cost money (money which could come from eager foreign investors, too), but it would also raise the region’s level of development to where it needs to be — to a region that is on par with many of its larger counterparts in the world.

And, for a Caribbean whose overwhelming economic driver is tourism, would a regional World Cup not remind the world that this is the most beautiful place on earth to visit?

Indeed, could a Caribbean World Cup help boost the region’s tourism industry as, in many ways, South Africa’s World Cup did?

“The 2010 FIFA World Cup was a once-in-a-lifetime global showcase for our country, which gave us unprecedented international media exposure,” South Africa’s Tourism Minister said in 2012, after the country reached a record number of tourism arrivals.

The tournament, he said,”left us with modern world-class tourist infrastructure.”

Of course, airlift would be another big issue. While the group stages could each be held on different islands, getting from one to another could pose a challenge.

So why couldn’t, for example, one of FIFA’s major sponsors, like, say, Emirates, help operate service between the islands? Or fund a provisional expansion for LIAT during the period of the Cup?

Perhaps the assistance of a major international carrier could inject some much-needed energy into the Caribbean’s regional airline.

But where would the money come from?

Well, why couldn’t the region find the money? Why couldn’t the Caribbean reach out to its international partners to help fund it, making the argument in favour of a Caribbean World Cup as a tool of development? Or reach out to its new partners, like China and Dubai, to fund it?

More crucially, though, simply having the ambition to hold the World Cup would be a big idea for a region in dire need of them — a way to say to the rest of the world that the Caribbean is and views itself as a serious player — and will continue to be one.

What do you think?

Tell us in the comments section below.

— CJ