HIGH travel costs are ‘killing off’ inter-island sport, a leading figure in Jersey football has said after the outlay for one match increased to around £400 per person.
Jersey Football Association chief executive David Kennedy criticised the ‘over-inflated prices’ after being forced to book a six-leg journey so Jersey could play the men’s Muratti Vase semi-final in Alderney on 25 March.
Several Island sports teams and organisations have had to pay high prices to fulfil inter-island fixtures, and the cost of travel – both to Guernsey and the UK – has been a major issue for Jersey’s top athletes.
In January, Jersey Bulls were forced to pull out of the Combined Counties Premier League Cup because of mounting travel costs to and from the UK, having already withdrawn from the FA Cup this season.
And at the end of last year, Jersey men’s basketball team withdrew from this summer’s NatWest International Island Games, to be held in Guernsey, citing the ‘extortionate’ cost of travel and accommodation.
Later this month, the Jersey men’s football team will face Alderney in a Muratti Vase semi-final, but have faced travel costs running into several thousands of pounds. Unable to fly direct with Aurigny because of a lack of available aircraft at late notice, Jersey are having to fly to Guernsey before transferring to St Peter Port by coach and then sailing to Alderney.
The last-minute booking is costing the JFA approximately £400 per head – three times more than the association initially budgeted for.
‘Asking players to fly to Guernsey and then sail on a ferry for an hour is far from ideal preparation for a big match,’ said Mr Kennedy.
‘Unfortunately that is the position we were forced into and one we are very disappointed with. The cost of the trip has effectively trebled, which is unacceptable at a time of rising costs and depleting sponsorship opportunities. We have asked the [football] inter-insular committee to review the fixture in the future and can only hope that travel options between the islands improves.’
He added: ‘Everyone is currently paying huge costs to travel between the islands, which is slowly killing off inter-island sport.
‘We run a large number of grassroots programmes for anyone from the age of five to 90. We cater for all demographics, and we want to be enhancing our offering, but the reality is we might need to sit down and look at what is viable for us in the future if we have to continue paying overinflated prices for inter-island travel.’
He added that ‘it’s crazy in this day and age that we are able to travel to London for a fraction of the cost of travelling to Guernsey’.
The Assistant Economic Development Minister, Deputy Lucy Stephenson, who has responsibility for sport, said: ‘The high cost of inter-island travel as well as the availability and timing of travel options more generally is something I know is impacting on local sports and the opportunities for our local athletes to compete.
‘This has become even more of a challenge in the post-Covid world when travel is still recovering. The Economic Development Minister has said publicly that he is actively looking at ways to protect and enhance the Island’s connectivity and I am encouraged that sport is one of the factors that is being taken into account.
‘In fact, the minister and I recently discussed the matter during a visit to Guernsey. I will continue to support him in this approach and work with local sports and athletes to advocate for better travel options and explore potential opportunities for improvement.
‘Jersey Sport do provide travel grants to sports teams and individuals through a Grants Advisory Committee, who make recommendations to its board.
‘Sports organisations made a bid for funding at the beginning of each year, which the committee review to ensure it meets its criteria. However, one of those is that ‘‘annual inter-insular events do not qualify for travel grant funding due to the scale of activities and potential to dilute the funds’’.
‘Eligible disabled athletes competing in inter-insular are supported.
‘The fund is limited to focus on supporting young athletes, disabled athletes, senior performance athletes and their relevant chaperones.’
Claire Stott, Jersey Sport’s interim head of strategy and insight, said that the government provided an annual grant of £125,000, which had not increased for a number of years.
‘In the past, we would get around 15 different sports applying for a portion of that funding but this year we have had 30,’ she said. ‘That goes to show how much sport is thriving in Jersey but it also means that each sport has a smaller share of the pot
‘Sport is almost a victim of its own success by increasing participation. It is fantastic but we all recognise there aren’t a huge number of opportunities to compete in Jersey and travel is increasingly expensive.
‘We would always advocate for more money from government for sport. It is such a positive part of Island life and ticks so many of the boxes when it comes to government priorities, such as community cohesion, health and mental wellbeing.’
Mrs Stott added that Jersey Sport was actively looking for other sources of funding to promote participation and fund athletes, including support from corporates and high-net-worth individuals.