As the dust settles from the inaugural Soccerex Americas Forum in Barbados, the event has been widely heralded as a great success.
As with any Soccerex event, the Forum was a truly global occasion with over 500 delegates from 40 countries and 5 continents in attendance. The Forum, hosted by Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. and held at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, aimed to bring the leading decision makers in the Americas football world together with businesses from across the continent and the rest of the world to expand their knowledge of the game, network and pursue business opportunities.
World-leading brands such as Digicel, KFC, Hilton and Konami were present at the event that featured 25 companies exhibiting and over 140 Club, League and Federation representatives in participation. The scale and success of the event ensured it was a true landmark for football throughout the Americas, with CONCACAF President Jeffrey Webb commending how the event was “well attended and very well received by participants, speakers and panelists.”
With hundreds of businessmen and women flocking to the island, the Forum offered the perfect platform for Barbados to reap the economic benefits of corporate tourism whilst marketing itself to key decision makers in the world of sport. The Hilton Barbados hosted the Soccerex social evenings, whilst the VIP Dinner held at The Cliff was an overwhelming success and a great opportunity to display the beautiful scenery that so enriches Barbados’ tourism industry.
The Forum opened on a stunning Tuesday morning with an opening ceremony featuring a presentation from Jeffrey Webb, in which he expressed his region’s desire to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup, and the Hon. Richard Sealy, Minister of Tourism for Barbados, who spoke of the benefits that have arisen from a boom in sport tourism in the region. A discussion on sport tourism followed the opening ceremony and focused on the growth of the industry across the continent. The panel, led by the Hon. Stephen Lashley, Minister of Culture, Sports & Youth for Barbados, provided an overview of sport tourism from a global, regional and local perspective with the Chief Council of Relevent Sports, the CEO of 2014 FIFA World Cup LOC and a consultant for the Rio de Janeiro Sports & Tourism State Secretary, all giving their personal insight into the industry.
In recent years Barbados has become somewhat of a hot spot for major sporting destination after launching partnerships with Chelsea and Liverpool, the official tourism partner, as well as earning the right to host the Race of Champions event coming up in December. The panel discussed how Barbados’ unique combination of hospitable climate, first class facilities and a rich sporting culture offers an ideal platform to continue to attract global sports events and the lucrative business opportunities that such sports events present for local economies through hotel bookings, sponsorship opportunities and stadia renovations.
The second day of the Forum kicked off with a discussion about the growth of women’s soccer before one of the conference’s headline acts, Major League Soccer (MLS) commissioner Don Garber, took to the stage to reveal the secrets to launching a professional league. Garber’s involvement in the conference continued into the afternoon as he and W Connection FC owner David John-Williams discussed the possibility of a proposed Caribbean Premier League. Williams and Garber are two members of the special CONCACAF Task Force set up to look into the formation of a Caribbean Premier League and were joined on the panel by Barbados FA President Randy Harris, one of the architects of the Premier League, David Dein and CEO of SportsMax Oliver McIntosh.
John-Williams described how, “it is just a question of time” before a league comes to fruition in the Caribbean explaining that, “(The Caribbean) have a very unique opportunity- we have sun, sea and sand and if we can marry sports with that, the sky is the limit for us.” The proposed league, which could be instilled by the 2018 FIFA World Cup, would further increase the potential of Barbados as a destination for sport tourism both in the immediate future and as a sustainable industry in years to come.
As ever at Soccerex events the Forums seek to honour the playing side of the game and the Americas conference was no different. The weekend prior to the Forum saw Soccerex, working along the Barbados FA and Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc., help bring the vast potential in Bajan youth football to the attention of some of the world’s most senior scouts with representatives from Chelsea, Arsenal and Chicago Fire all present at Cave Hill Campus for a series of football trials for the youth squads of the Barbados FA. The trials provided the opportunity for the Barbados’ U15, U17, U19 and U21 squads to showcase their talents on a big stage with Barbados FA President Randy Harris describing how, “the Soccerex Football Trials are the best thing to happen to youth football in Barbados ever in its history.”
The Forum’s finale featured a panel of legends with Liverpool and England legend John Barnes, former Manchester United and England captain Bryan Robson and Tottenham and Argentina stalwart Ossie Ardiles discussing everything from winning the World Cup to the trials and tribulations of management. The session provided a light-hearted and fun conclusion to a highly productive and influential few days for the Barbados sports industry.
Soccerex CEO Duncan Revie said he felt the inaugural Americas Forum in Barbados “was a resounding success. The event was well attended and all the feedback including the personal letter I received from CONCACAF President Jeffrey Webb has been overwhelmingly positive. I would like to thank our partners, Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc., for making the event possible.
“Next we move to Durban for the African Forum, our final event of 2014. In 2015 we will host events in Jordan and in Manchester and we hope to be coming back to the beautiful island of Barbados – watch this space!”