Cayman Islands— CONCACAF Sports Summit 2013 concluded with dual high notes. Jamaican Prime Minister, Portia Simpson-Miller, committed her government to helping the Jamaican Football Federation (JFF) achieve their development goals by supporting partnerships between government and business and football organizations. She then urged other governments around the world to follow in her footsteps. “My government has a very good and long-standing relationship with the JFF and we support their development efforts. We encourage business and other organizations to partner with football entities to develop this great sport. We also applaud FIFA’s regional programs which have been of great benefit to our country.”
CONCACAF President, Jeffrey Webb, closed the summit by taking a comment out of PM Simpson-Miller’s speech: “We cannot allow our children to ever have to choose between a ball and a gun, as the PM indicated. It is a sad reality that her phrase is often true in societies around the world. But it just makes our work that much more urgent. We must choose between leaving this summit having had some good dialog, and leave it at that, or we can leave to begin our work anew. There is no choice.”
Forty-one national football association representatives, several Caribbean political leaders, and FIFA’s global leadership, partnered with members of the media, business and non-profits to exemplify the CONCACAF Sports Summit’s theme—“Transformation Through Partnership.”
Several panels and presentations provided firsthand accounts of the transformative nature of their relationship with football while others described the progress that their partnerships have made possible. Nic Coward, the General Secretary of the English Premier League, said: “Our entire progress from a league that brought in a few million pounds a year to one that brings in over two billion is directly attributable to the partnerships we have built with the media, fans, businesses and above all with the local communities where our teams play.”
Mr. Mike Geddes, USA Managing Director, of the global non-profit Street Football World, said “My organization works with underserved communities pursuing the noble goal of changing the world through football. We are a development group that believes football has the connective power to tie sport to better health practices and educational opportunities for all while also carrying a message of integrity, via our street football games that are dependent upon players making the refereeing calls in the games they play. We focus on the under-served populations in the countries we work in and we partner with entities who can sustain our efforts in those communities.”
Headlining the "Football in your economy" panel was Hassan Abdullah Al-Thawadi, ex-Qatar Petroleum executive, and current counsel of Qatar Investment Authority (owners of beIn Sport) and a board member of the Hassad Food Company, who spoke as the CEO of the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar. Speaking with what sounded like an American accent, Mr. Al-Thawadi tied his nation’s socio-economic long-range development plans to their interest in hosting the FIFA World Cup. “The cup will help us move from a hydrocarbon based to a service based economy by helping us to invest in the national infrastructure necessary to host such a global event.”
Pressed to add more insight into Qatar’s surprising hosting bid as a vehicle for national development, he said: “We want to build bridges between east and west – to show who we are--a funny and hospitable people, which is counter to the media script about our nation.”
The well-attended sport summit had all the earmarks of an effort FIFA will want to replicate as it showcased many of the meeting’s themes via success stories that reinforced what the world football governing body wants to achieve throughout all of its confederations: partnerships that will sustain the sport, much as the sport helps to sustain the societies that foster those partnerships.