The Franklyn Stephenson Academy has not been acknowledged by either the Barbados Cricket Association, the National Sports Council or the Barbados Tourism Authority, but founder Franklyn Stephenson says it can be a major contributor to the island’s cricket and tourism product.
“I wrote letters to the Barbados Cricket Association, the National Sports Council and the Barbados Tourism Authority informing them about the academy when it was established three years ago and none of them replied,” Stephenson told Barbados TODAY.
He disclosed that last year a group in England contacted the BTA’s office there to find out if there was a facility on the island where children could practise cricket for a week and the group was told there was no such place in Barbados.
“The English visitors found out about the academy from a member of staff at the hotel where they were staying and booked it. As a result the hotel which is located on the West Coast has formed a relationship with the academy and they have placed it on their website,” he said.
The former Barbados all-rounder stressed his academy could play a major part in sports tourism on the island.
“Several English counties have stated their interest in using the academy for their pre-season training rather than going to South Africa or India. For the past three years five counties have trained there; so the academy can add to the tourism product,” Stephenson said.
He added that the academy was an “all-year venture” and because of its location could lure visitors to the island.
Among the counties to have used the facility has been Nottinghamshire for whom Stephenson played with distinction, including completing the double of 100 wickets and 1,000 runs in 1988.
Nottinghamshire’s director of cricket Mick Newell has previously praised the academy, describing it as “excellent” and commending the pitches and outfield. Only last weekend the West Indies Cricket Board utilized the facility for the regional side.
“I know that this is a product that we can sell. My wish is to establish 25 smaller academies of a similar nature on the island where we can take cricket back to the communities and develop a programme to take our young boys off the block,” Stephenson said.
He explained that there was a role for the Cricket Legends of Barbados to play if these academies were established.
“The legends will attract people to the academies to have their pictures taken with them and sign autographs. The boys on the block who have paintings and leather work to sell could bring them there and sell them because a tourist market has been created for them. So they would not only be bringing cricket back to the communities but they will also be helping people earn an income,” the former England county cricket star said.
Stephenson said that this concept could turn Barbados back into a strong cricketing nation and by extension the West Indies. He stated he was pleased the West Indies team had booked the facility for two training sessions in preparation for the New Zealand tour.
“I hope the boys had a good session at the academy. I was happy to provide the facility for the team,” Stephenson said.
The academy is located at Cockade House, Bennett’s, St Thomas. Golf and lawn tennis are the other sports being offered. Stephenson said he was also hoping to install a pool soon.