HOT SPOT: Cashing in on a name
THERE are a handful of sports venues in Barbados that are household names.
One of them is Kensington Oval, a long established fortress of West Indies cricket.
The rich history surrounding the ground must be a source of pride and satisfaction to all Barbadians and possibly the envy of those outside these shores.
Kensington was the scene of Lawrence Rowe’s monumental 302 in 1974 when the ground was packed to more than official capacity.
It was where Michael Holding delivered that unforgettable over to Geoff Boycott in 1981.
It was where Brian Lara produced one of Test cricket’s finest innings, an unbeaten 153 against Australia in 1999 that won a match against all odds.
It was where Australia completed a remarkable hat-trick of World Cup titles in the historic final of 2007 when the Caribbean hosted the tournament for the first time.
It was where the West Indies team established the extraordinary record of going 59 years – between 1935 and 1994 – without losing a Test match and creating the almost unbelievable record of winning 12 successive Tests between 1977 and 1993.
The list goes on and on and on.
The memories of Kensington go beyond cricket. International football and cycling were common in the 1960s and 1970s. Beauty pageants have also taken centre stage, and in recent times, calypso kings have been crowned there.
Since the redevelopment of the ground for the 2007 World Cup, it is rated among the finest in international cricket although some of us miss the character of the old Kensington, including the ever popular Kensington Stand.
All of us have been to Kensington at some point in our lifetime.
When we say Kensington, we proclaim it with some measure of pride that sometimes borders on arrogance.
Some of us herald it as the “mecca”, which is defined in the Concise Oxford Dictionary as “a place one aspires to visit”.
Some of us know it only as Kensington – dropping the word Oval and placing a strong accent on the K – in the same way many Trinidadians often refer o Queen’s Park Oval as “de O-val” or as Guyanese call their former No. 1 ground “Bour-da”.
Tradition will always be tradition.
It is for that reason I wonder how many of you will be averse to Kensington Oval going by a name other than simply Kensington Oval.
Last October, Kensington Oval Management Inc. (KOMI), the entity charged with managing the facility after the World Cup, announced it was seeking expressions of interest from Barbadian companies with a desire in having their name incorporated into Kensington Oval’s brand for five to ten years.
To put it in Bajan terms, a company will pay KOMI some money to have its name precede Kensington.
My assumption is that it will not be small dollars if I am to be guided by the example of a deal in 2007 in Melbourne, Australia where what used to be Stadium Australia was re-named ANZ Stadium after an arrangement was concluded with ANZ Bank worth around AUS$31.5 million over seven years.
To use an example close to home – without giving a local company a free advertisement – can you imagine Kensington going by the name Vodaphone Kensington Oval?
I can well imagine the outcry among Barbadians. A few years ago, I might have been diametrically opposed to much a move.
In 2004, I used the pages of this newspaper to express my dissatisfaction with a decision of the authorities at the Queen’s Park Oval in Trinidad after some new stands on the ground were named after business entities.
At the time, I held the view that the stands should have been named after outstanding sons of the soil who had made a telling contribution to Trinidad and Tobago and West Indies cricket.
The experience and observations during the passing years have led to a change of heart.
It was a business decision driven by commercial considerations.
What is being contemplated for Kensington isn’t anything new on the world stage. The world-famous Oval in London has had a number of brands associated with it over several years – Kennington, Fosters, Brit.
While I can appreciate the history, emotion, memories and sentiment attached to Kensington, those alone will not repay the $150 million that was invested for the World Cup.
Additionally, the handful of major events the ground stages on an annual basis isn’t enough to meet the operating costs of the venue. We must find ways and means of helping Kensington pay for itself.
Times have changed.
We must move on and the decision to offer naming rights is strictly a move aimed at securing revenue for the ground.
The brand that Kensington offers should be enough to entice a host of Barbadian companies to express an interest in having its name attached to the ground.
I await further developments.
• Haydn Gill is the NATION’s Associate Editor (Sports) and an be reached at [email protected]