The 2016 Olympic games have just ended and the performance of the national team is under scrutiny especially when compared to the performance of, for example, the Jamaican team. While there will be a lot of commentary about where we went wrong, we need to look at the economics of sport and how we can benefit from sport. In fact, just before the budget a proper plan and much better targeted investment will go a long way to, not only improve performance, but increase value to the economy.
While we may not have a sports sector in this country it is important to understand that the measurement of the sport’s economic contribution to the broader economy is multilayered.
If we take a dollar spent in sport, its value can be estimated from employment, time value of volunteer service, health cost savings (a healthier population), sale of sports and related goods, provision of services, infrastructure and facilities and the organisation and delivery of events. Additionally, there is a notional interpretation of ‘value’ connected to personal and community wellbeing and national pride that comes from sport involvement or perceived relationship with sport.
We must take into consideration the significant overlaps present between the sport sector and many other sectors, such as recreation, entertainment, tourism and preventive health services. The broad definition of ‘sport’ includes a number of recreational activities, including boating, fishing, camping and park/savannah usage that are linked to ‘sport’, but are more generally acknowledged as part of recreational activity. It is this thinking that is needed as we plan to diversify the economy.
Sport in general (including forprofit sport activities) accounts for approximately one to 2.5 percent of Gross Domestic Product of the economies of Australia, the USA, Canada and the United Kingdom.
Major sporting events naturally make a big impression on the lives – and pulse-rates – of fans. But these occasions can also have a wider economic impact that goes on beyond the final whistle. Fans and tourists bring in money that normally wouldn’t be there. Lasting economic benefits from major events may ultimately come from new infrastructure and land regeneration, but the appeal of regular sporting fixtures to foreign tourists can have a more immediate effect. The multiplier effect is important to take into consideration as we plan our way forward and develop sectors.
Sport products and services can be found in many other sectors, for example in tourism, insurance, legal consultancy, and many more. This means that sport can help specific niche sectors to develop, depending on the characteristics of sport demand and supply in a specific country.
It is also the very small issues that need to be given attention for example the rewards for our sports persons. While no attempt is made to suggest that we match some of the fees paid to say a person winning gold for Singapore (US$750,000), paying US$3,000 to a gold medal winner has to be reviewed. After all it is the athlete that is the generator of the sporting dollar. We need to find a way to involve the private sector in the development of sport.
Contributing very late in an event, only when the sports personnel are doing well does not make or develop a sports industry. Clearly a proper national plan has to be developed to include all stake holders and outline their roles. Sporting organizations, partly or wholly funded by government or those that are privately funded but represent the country, cannot operate as laws unto themselves. Proper rules governing selection and representation are integral to the development of sport.
Sport is an economic activity in which we must get all stakeholders involved. It is a business venture from which employment, profits, taxes and pleasure accrue. Let us make the paradigm shift now or continue to trail our Jamaican counterparts badly.