Kensington Oval is out of the picture as the management committee for 2020 Rugby of Barbados World 7s Tournament has shifted its playing ground to Bellevue Plantation and Polo Club located in Station Hill, St. Michael.
Manager of the local organising committee for the event, George Nicholson, told Barbados TODAY that there are major plans in store for the December 4th and 5th tournament.
Besides moving to a new venue, Nicholson explained that the organising committee was hoping to change the focus for the event providing it does take place later this year. All sporting activities have been suspended indefinitely due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
“The one pitch at Kensington Oval was not sustainable in terms of the number of teams we could attract. And the issues surrounding the objections of the cricketers to playing rugby at the Oval. So, we shifted it to Belleview Plantation which would allow us to have more of a family-friendly environment. We are going to have face painting, horse rides, stalls, food booths and that sort of thing around the ground because it is quite a lovely property.
“We want to go back to more of the original concept of having a good time and playing some serious rugby as well. But at the same time creating an event that has a great appeal to the general public and the wider tourism population,” Nicholson said.
A total of 32 entries including overseas are expected to arrive in Barbados later this year. Unlike last year when only the women received prize money, this year will be different as the men are expected to receive US$5,000 out of a total of US$15,000 prize money.
“We surveyed the teams that came last year. For them, certainly for the American teams, the prize money wasn’t really the determining factor. We tend to think of places like the United States having the opportunity to play high-level competition all the time. The top women’s team we get coming to Barbados get to face one another only at a tournament. They came here for the competition and the sunshine as well.
“So, we are scaling back on the prize money, we are offering prize money to the men and women this year. Last year we only offered it to the women. This year we are having a men’s and women’s elite division which will receive prize money and then a men’s and women’s social division for those that are coming for fun and to play some rugby as well,” he said.
Like many sporting events in Barbados, the exciting annual Rugby World 7s might not be spared and so far there are signs of it. For example, the two mandatory registration periods which normally start in August have been shifted to October where teams pay US$500 around that time and anything later is US$800 in November.
“Obviously, we have had to shift our registration date but it also means that we aren’t able at this point in time to advertise properly and promote Barbados and the event. So, our marketing has been suppressed while we are going through this COVID-19 pandemic.
“And we don’t really know what the situation is going to be towards the end of the year so we are tentatively keeping our options open. We are still having the event as it stands but we have no guarantee that teams would be able to travel or that we will be able to get the funding we need to promote and stage the event,” Nicholson explained.
Additionally, Nicholson, former president of the
Barbados Rugby Football Union, said that if the event didn’t come off it would not be much of a setback because the organizing committee had not expensed itself.
“We actually haven’t expended any funds right now, we have been prudent in that regard. We have done some initial promotions which we funded out of pocket. But it is not a massive financial hit for us. We get assistance from the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc (BTMI) and the Tourism Development Corporation (TDC). TDC is all for promotion and the BTMI funding, approximately 70 percent goes back into the local economy in terms of services, support for the event and accommodation.
“The funds that we get are based on the event happening. So, it’s not an investment that we made and are trying to recoup on. No, we don’t actually make money on the event, we generate a lot of business and business for Barbados,” he maintained.