Paula Gopee-Scoon claimed sport could help diversify Trinidad and Tobago's economy ©TTOC

Paula Gopee-Scoon, Trinidad and Tobago’s Minister of Trade and Industry, claims sport can play a crucial role in the diversification of the economy.

The Senator was speaking at the third edition of the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee’s Industry TT Conference.

"Sport is part of our social fabric that permeates our development regardless of race, religion, class and status in society," said Gopee-Scoon.

"As a country, we are therefore required to harness the benefits of sport, and to use it as a mechanism for our own growth and development; so that outside of the social and health spheres, there are entrepreneurial opportunities that are to be exploited in this very wide sporting arena.

"Sport today has a key role in the diversification of the economy.

"The marketplace has changed.

"Our minds should extend therefore beyond the traditional sectors of oil and gas, to sport - and in particular the business of sport – as an industry which offers a myriad of entrepreneurial possibilities and opportunities"

The keynote speaker highlighted the Government’s commitment to developing local sporting industry through investment in sporting infrastructure.

The positioning of sport tourism as a viable industry with a focus on sport services, sport events and sport infrastructure was also noted.

Attendees, particularly women, were also encouraged to uncover opportunities in events management, entertainment, equipment rental, graphic design, fashion, media and technology.

TTOC President Brian Lewis called for greater efforts to boost sport industries ©TTOC
TTOC President Brian Lewis called for greater efforts to boost sport industries ©TTOC

They were told to apply for financing support from Government through a recently established development fund for start-ups and existing businesses.

Gopee-Scoon also highlighted that the finals of the Caribbean Premier League being be held in Trinidad and Tobago for the next three years.

The cricket event is expected to create numerous opportunities for entrepreneurs and generate an estimated TT$23 million (£2.4 million/$3.4 million/€2.7 million) in sport tourism revenue in 2017.

The Conference had begun with opening remarks from TTOC President Brian Lewis, who claimed sports industries needed to be taken more seriously.

"Why are we continuing to leave billions of dollars on the table," Lewis said.

"Unlike other countries that seek to diversify their economy, why is sport as an industry not taken seriously here on the twin-island Republic?

"As we talk about net foreign exchange, as we talk about employment generation, why are we not embracing the opportunity?

"We need to move sport, and the discussion surrounding sport in Trinidad and Tobago from the baby bird approach where we sit in the nests with our mouths open, waiting for momma bird to drop food.

"We must embrace the reality of the concept and have the confidence to be apex predators."

The Conference was titled “Youth, Young People and Women: Raising Awareness and Encouraging Entrepreneurship”, with a cross section of experts and entrepreneurs in business, finance, sport, law, media and entertainment taking part in workshops.

There was a focus on creating an entrepreneurial system in Trinidad and Tobago, with debates centred on how the political environment may impact, how investors evaluate business plans and how to create human connections to build brands and drive growth.