Island ‘could become a training hub for elite sport’

THE Island could become a training hub for elite sport teams in the future, the Assistant Economic Development Minister has said, following news that the Lions rugby squad are poised to visit Jersey this summer.

Deputy Hugh Raymond (centre). Picture: DAVID FERGUSON (30647585)
Deputy Hugh Raymond (centre). Picture: DAVID FERGUSON (30647585)

Deputy Hugh Raymond believes the Island has the capability to attract elite sporting sides from all over the world and hopes to bridge the gap between sport and tourism in Jersey.

Earlier this week, British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland named the Island as his preferred destination for his side’s pre-tour training camp before this summer’s series in South Africa.

It is believed that the Lions could arrive on or just after 13 June and spend up to ten days using the new facilities at the Strive performance academy, next to the rugby club in St Peter, as their pre-tour training centre.

Deputy Raymond said the arrival of some of rugby’s leading world stars could help to put Jersey on the sporting map.

‘This can open up so many opportunities for the Island and we could become a training hub for elite sport teams from all over the world,’ he said.

‘I have always believed there is a link to be made between sport and tourism over here. By inviting high-calibre teams, we will attract national media attention and put our name out there.

‘This will encourage more people to visit the Island and use our

hotels, restaurants and facilities,’ he added.

Earlier this year the government released its Inspiring Active Places Strategy, which is designed to provide a network of sport and wellbeing facilities across the Island.

Deputy Raymond said the strategy outlined Jersey’s ambition to provide facilities which could be used by elite teams in the future.

‘The strategy puts us in a great position to attract world-class athletes and add to some of the already-brilliant facilities we have on offer,’ he explained.

‘We have top-level golf courses and soon we hope to build elite netball facilities. These are all potential avenues to help bring over professionals.’

The Deputy believes the Island should also make use of its professional stars who play sport at the highest level.

‘We have people like Serena [Guthrie] in netball and Matt [Banahan] in rugby who we can use as links to the elite world and act as advocates for the Island,’ he said.

Commenting on reports that government funding could be available for the trip, Deputy Raymond said: ‘It is a possibility that funding could be used to cover the team’s flights to the Island and to support them with any Covid testing procedures needed. It is important to note that the benefits of such a trip and the returns for the Island would outweigh any of the potential costs.’

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