British and Irish Lions: Government of Jersey funds to be used for summer visit?

THE British and Irish Lions have promised not to ‘lock themselves away’ if and when they visit Jersey this summer, following calls for them to engage with the community.

The British and Irish Lions, who drew their 2017 tour with New Zealand, could use Jersey as a training base for their 2021 series against South Africa. The All Blacks have themselves also been linked with a trip to Strive in St Peter, once the facility is complete Picture: PA
The British and Irish Lions, who drew their 2017 tour with New Zealand, could use Jersey as a training base for their 2021 series against South Africa. The All Blacks have themselves also been linked with a trip to Strive in St Peter, once the facility is complete Picture: PA

The Island has been the subject of international attention since the JEP uncovered that Lions coach Warren Gatland is considering basing his players and staff at Strive in St Peter if their 2021 tour to South Africa is switched to Britain.

It is understood that Government of Jersey contributions could be made to help boost economic and tourism development – as is the case with Super League Triathlon, which receives £250,000 of public cash a year and offers returns in the region of £500,000.

Gatland is believed to have been swayed by Jersey’s relatively low Covid case-rate and the elite facilities due to be provided by the Strive complex when it opens in May. The Springboks are understood to be interested in basing themselves in the Island at some point too.

Deputy Hugh Raymond, who holds political responsibility for sport, says the use of public resources will provide significant returns, both financially and on a social level.

‘We made it clear that if we’re going to put something into it, we want something out of it,’ Raymond explained. ‘We don’t want them to come over and lock themselves away and they were absolutely great about it.

‘It depends on what we are allowed to do and what we’re not allowed to do then, but they’re looking to base themselves here and we’d be delighted to see them.

'Everybody is now talking about us and it’s great. Hopefully this will be a leader for other international teams and events and there is going to be more interest in coming to Jersey.’

It is understood that two hotels – one in town and one in the west of the Island – have block-booked rooms to accommodate the Lions, South Africa or both, and Raymond believes swathes of rugby fans could also provide the hospitality sector with a timely boost.

‘A number of people will start to try and book to come here if it is all confirmed,’ he said. ‘There are large groups of people who support each of the unions [England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland] and we could have an influx of people coming over to see them.

‘It’s tremendous that the Island can be considered for these events.’

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