The 2026 World Cup must be held in the CONCACAF region, says confederation president Jeffrey Webb.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the first Soccerex Americas Forum to be staged in the region, Webb said that if the 41 national associations that made up CONCACAF allowed more than 32 years to pass without hosting the World Cup, it would be a great injustice. Before an audience that included several major football stakeholders from Europe and the Americas, Webb said CONCACAF had to stand united as a region to host the 2026 event.
Webb, who replaced Austin “Jack” Warner as CONCACAF boss in 2012, said the Soccerex Americas Forum provided an excellent opportunity for stakeholders to network and understand the markets that existed throughout the Caribbean. He stated that though the region might have small economies and small market share, it nonetheless had big dreams. He said that one of those dreams was having a professional league in the Caribbean.
Webb said attendance records were smashed when CONCACAF staged Gold Cups and this also held true for commercial activity during such events. He added that the National Football League in the USA had a 100 per cent increase in commercial activity but in CONCACAF there was a situation where there was 300 and 400 per cent increased value on media rights.
The 40-year-old native of the Cayman Islands said a Caribbean Professional League was a major dream and it was up to this generation to make that dream a reality. He stated football offered opportunities for the region’s young people to fulfill their aspirations and extended beyond the field of play. He noted that 79 per cent of revenues made from the sport was invested back into the game in grassroots and coaching education programmes, among other areas.
Webb noted that as part of the thrust toward the realization of a professional league in the region, a CONCACAF task force would be holding discussions with CARICOM and the Caribbean Tourism Organisation.
“The dream must become a reality,” he stressed.
Touching on women’s football, Webb said that over the next few days CONCACAF would be focusing on a development strategy to see how it could make women’s football in the region even better. He said CONCACAF had more female footballers than any other confederation in the world. He explained that women’s soccer in the USA was the most prominent sport there and growing. He noted there were 19 female teams commanding average attendance of about 20 000 people.
Revealing how Barbados came to be chosen for the prestigious Soccerex Americas Forum, Webb said many venues had been discussed but he had recommended Barbados to Soccerex officials since there was no other economy or government in the history of the Caribbean that had embraced sports tourism as Barbados had. He added that long before there was even the theme of sports tourism around the Caribbean, it had been established in Barbados.
Duirng the opening ceremony both Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy and Minister of Sports Stephen Lashley addressed the packed gathering. They welcomed the delegates with Minister Sealy highlighting the business opportunities which sports tourism offered. He also gave a history of the initial discussions which had led to Soccerex choosing Barbados for the two-day conference.
Also addressing the morning session was Soccerex chairman Tony Martin.
During the afternoon there were panel discussions looking at sports tourism; medical treatment on and off the pitch; the finance and regulation of football; and soccer as a game of opportunity. The forum concludes tomorrow.
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