Minister of Tourism and International Transport, Richard Sealy, has hailed the inaugural staging of the Soccerex Forum as a crisscross into the meetings, incentives, conferences and events (MICE) – a niche which Barbados is aggressively going after.

He made this observation today while addressing scores of local and international football officials during the opening ceremony at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.

Mr. Sealy expressed confidence in the fusion of these two important niches and added: ???The MICE industry is growing fast and generates millions and we are happy to see that we can have this award-winning facility [that was] recently refurbished, host a world-class international event like this.???

He further stated: ???We have over 100,000 square feet of space and we can handle your large and your small conferences, conventions, banquets and meetings???We all know the economic benefits that can ensue and therefore on behalf of Barbados Conference Services Limited, which is also a part of the Ministry of Tourism, we also thank Tony Duncan and the entire Soccerex team for their business.???

Underscoring the importance of football, the Tourism Minister said the Soccerex Forum not only gave pointers on how to treat football like a business; it also addressed important areas such as player development and league development.

???Topics over the next two days are relevant and timely???Changing Soccer???s Status Quo is one such session??? that examines the cycle amateur athletes go through and what measures need to be taken to get young soccer players turning professional,??? he added.

Mr. Sealy said the Forum also explored the future of Caribbean football and would provide an insight on ???where we need to be and how to get there???, while pointing out that careful planning, commitment of time and financial resources, would, ultimately, lead to more semi-professional and professional football in the Caribbean.

He noted that football had evolved from more than just a game into a multi-million dollar business and reminded footballers that even though Caribbean players had been blessed with an abundance of raw talent, there was a need to improve the level of discipline and determination.

???Raw talent is not enough to take us where we want to go in football, and this is one of the reasons [for the hosting of] the Soccerex Forum. It provides Barbados with excellent opportunities to take this passion that we called sport from the level of an amateur spectator sport to a lucrative enterprise,??? Mr. Sealy underlined.??The two-day Forum concludes tomorrow, October 22.

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