SUNBIZ

Sports Is Big Business

"Sports in Fiji is a very big business, involv­ing large amounts of capital, generating a lot of funds and it is a large contributor to the Fiji economy."
09 Mar 2019 15:24
Sports Is Big Business

Sports in Fiji is a very big business, involv­ing large amounts of capital, generating a lot of funds and it is a large contributor to the Fiji economy.

The investment in the facilities used by the different sporting bodies in Fiji represents a significant capital investment by the Fiji Sports Counsil, on purchasing the land, on the initial construction and on the ongoing upkeep and eventual refurbishment.

Generally, the public doesn’t think about the amounts needed to make their day out at the rugby, netball, swimming or almost any other sporting event possible, but without a great deal of money the stadium, pool, gymnasium or oval would not exist.

However, the investment is well placed and the returns from the local market, while not enough to support the investment, are good.

Sport Commisson

The Sports Commission also pays the salaries and expenses of international coaches for a number of sports to come to Fiji either on long or short term contracts.

Fiji is a dedicated sporting nation (many peo­ple say that rugby is the Fiji religion) and al­most every Fijian benefits from the investment in the sport.

Sport also makes a big contribution to the health of the nation, and for the elite athlete creates the opportunity for a very rewarding career.

Illustration of sports

Some illustrations of the value of sport to the Fiji economy are the international events that are held in Fiji.

The one that will be remembered by everyone is the Crusaders/Chiefs match that has become an annual event here.

It fills the ANZ Stadium not only with locals who want to watch a great game of Rugby, but large numbers of overseas visitors as well, some of whom are here and go to Suva for the game but mostly people who came to Fiji on a vacation just so they could watch the match live.

For this one event all available accommoda­tion from Suva to the Coral coast is fully booked each year.

International golf

Another event that is big is the International Golf Championship played annually at the world class Natadola course and draws players from all over the world.

The tournament generated a media coverage valued at FJ$30 million and resulted in a total of 270 hours of television coverage.

The total value of the hotel, airfares, food and beverage spend is not disclosed but would be very high as many visitors came to Fiji specifi­cally to enjoy time at the course.

The Oceania Sevens event is another example.

It is estimated that the return on this invest­ment over the three years 2017-2019 to the Fiji economy will be FJ$18.5 million on an invest­ment of FJ$1.5 million per annum.

Add to that the video coverage of the event on overseas media and the promotion it achieved for Fiji and the benefit enjoyed by our tourism industry.

Even what appears to be a small event, the World Cadet Challenge for table tennis provid­ed a significant direct benefit of FJ$6.6 million and there was also wide television coverage around the world which was of benefit to the tourism industry.

Another benefit to the economy from the in­vestment the government is making in sport is the repatriation of funds from players overseas to their families at home.

Without the government investment these players would find it a lot more difficult to get the exposure to be offered contracts.

There is no hard data on what part of re­patriated funds comes through sport but it is generally believed to be considerable. Total funds are the third largest item in Fiji’s overseas earnings through remittances.

Sporting events

In 2018, Fiji held a number of international sporting events and all of these were very good business.

The Pan Pacific Games were held at the Suva Aquatic Centre and was hailed as the best organised and best covered ever. Over­seas countries like USA, Canada, New Zea­land, Singapore and Japan attended and the three day television coverage was live streamed.

Other direct advantages of hosting inter­national sporting events in Fiji are the sig­nificant amount of overseas media coverage the events achieves something that should be taken into account when considering what events are viable.

This coverage not only shows the event but also promotes the country and helps people to be aware of the sort of facilities that are available and showcases the spectacular lo­cation and the beautiful environment.

Right now there is only a small number of overseas people who even know where Fiji is. Even less have seen the facilities and the people and know the climate, the surround­ings and the culture.

While Rugby is a given in terms of expo­sure, even minor sports benefit from the hosting of an international sporting event.

Dingy sailing got a lot of footage with the Laser racing on Nadi Bay, and can look for­ward to much more leading up to the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.

Even such an obscure sport as 18 foot yacht racing got an amazing amount of coverage in Australia and New Zealand when the Championships were raced here in 2018.

National Rugby League

The NRL is now getting a lot of attention, weightlifting the same, Fiji is set to host more international sporting events in the future and each one brings significant input to the economy.

Sports tourism is another area that holds immense promise, but it is currently basi­cally unrealised because all the major sport­ing facilities are in Suva and all the hotel rooms are in Nadi.

We are assured that this is being corrected by the large numbers of rooms being added to the tourist inventory in Suva over the next two years and by the construction of sporting facilities to be undertaken shortly in Nadi.

Unfortunately, it looks like the lesson has not been learned and facilities are likely to be built in Lautoka, closer to the available rooms than now, but not close enough.

Sports Tourism is a very simple equation, visitor numbers are made up of people who compete and a greater number of people who come along for the holiday (spouse, family members and children), worldwide recognised as being three non-participants for each com­petitor, representing a huge return on invest­ment.

The hang-on group usually stay in the resort while the competitors go off to do battle, but they do mix it up a lot so need to be fairly close.

At the moment it looks as if Suva might win the race.

This could be a pity as the major international airport is in Nadi, a four hour bus ride from Suva. Lautoka is a nice town, but very light on tourist facilities.

It is smarter to build new sporting facilities close to Nadi than try to solve the transport problem.

Sports is also becoming a large Fiji export business, with worthwhile financial benefits to the economy.

Many overseas events now automatically in­clude a Fiji team and significant payments are on offer.

The World Sevens Series has developed to the point where a number of countries are bidding for the rights to hold a tournament and televi­sion coverage rights are huge.

There is a conference being held in Suva to­day that will expressly look at the Business of Sport. The chief guest will be the Prime Minis­ter of Fiji Voreqe Bainimarama and the panels will include a number of prominent business­men from around the country. The aim of the conference is to take Fiji Sport to the next level.

Feedback: maraia.vula@fijisun.com.fj




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