Warren Gatland’s back in Jersey today (28 April) firming up details ahead of June’s training camp in the island for the British Irish Lions squad.
For those not steeped in the world of rugby, this is a big deal.
The Lions tour of South Africa this summer looks set to be one of the sporting highlights of 2021 after a torrid twelve months that has seen so many events, sporting or otherwise, cancelled, scaled back or postponed.
So to have the curtain-raiser to an international tournament take place in Jersey is something the island should be proud of.
It didn’t happen by accident. Gatland, coach of the Lions, also scouted out Guernsey – though the public and political row that surrounded the visit after the government was less than straight about the Covid precautions it had put in place caused quite a stink.
In Jersey, the visits went off without much of a stir. The upshot is a squad that’ll be making global headlines with its South Africa tour will spend ten days in Jersey getting match fit.
It’s an endorsement of the island’s sporting facilities, but also of a “just make it happen” approach to these opportunities taken by some in government.
You’ll know I’ve blogged many times at the lack of joined up thinking or the snail’s pace of decision-making. Here we have an example of how they can get things done when they want to.
The cost to the island? £175,000 – most of that from the existing Visit Jersey marketing budget. And, frankly, if they can convert that into positive coverage, it could pay for itself tenfold in economic benefit.
There are those questioning the cost. To put it in perspective, if the squad is around 50 people – that amounts to £350 per day per visitor to cover accommodation, travel, food and the like. That’s actually not bad going.
What does the island get? The endorsement of a global sporting elite. Photo opportunities galore showing the island’s facilities being used by the best of the best. And there’ll even be a chance for some of us mere mortals to see some of their training up close.
At a time when the headlines are filled with doom and gloom, it feels a rare and welcome moment to celebrate something with so much potential to do good for Jersey.
My word, we deserve it!
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WATCH Gary's interview with Lions' Coach Warren Gatland here...