Sally introduces Butch Stewart to David Gower

Sally Allen: It's all about heart

Sally Allen

Like most people who have an interest in football, and sport in general, I was somewhat stunned by the massive and humiliating loss to Hungary (0-4).

Shocking yes. Surprising – absolutely not.

Footballers have long been over feted and over paid, and from my experience on the business side of sport for over 30 years, it is as obvious as the nose on your face that you don’t get the same results playing for money as you do playing with your heart.

The over-pampered England football team deserved to lose but it is important to not just blame the players.

Huge responsibility lies with the governing body and, in particular, the Premier League.

Sir Garfield Sobers and Brian Lara after another century from Lara
Sir Garfield Sobers and Brian Lara after another century from Lara

Frankly, in my opinion, we will never ever be able to field a competitive soccer team if they continue to have more foreign players in the Premier League than home-grown talent.

In the season 2021-22, only 36.4 per cent of this eye-watering, cash-rich league were English. This percentage has gone down year on year. So, evidence that greed is king and to quote Gordon Gekko – greed is good (in football).

However, the greed is successfully stamping out national pride and the ability of an England soccer team to win the big prizes.

I have been lucky enough to have worked with some of the all-time great soccer players, two of whom Sir Bobby Moore and Franz Beckenbauer were both under paid and, in Bobby Moore’s case, certainly not valued as he should have been after winning the coveted Jules Rimet Trophy.

It was so sad to see this truly lovely man working for peanuts doing radio commentary towards the end of his short life.

These days players with one per cent of his talent are swimming in cash and yet do not have that lionheart that makes an average player into a winner. It is all about heart.

In cricket, the West Indies were dominant for years.

They were the poorest of the Test nations in those days but their hearts were bursting with pride.

In 1995, I managed the PR for the West Indies cricket team, and boy they were impressive.

Led by the great Sir Richie Richardson with Brian Lara among the batting line-up and the fabulous Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose adding some bowling magic. I promise you that this team played with a lot of heart!

One of the highlights of 1995 was taking the cricket press to Antigua to familiarise them with the West Indies new sponsor, Sandals Caribbean Resorts and to see some cricket.

The press had a field day as there was a free mini bar in each of their suites!

The cricket press in those days were notorious for have more than a few ‘sharpeners’ and so it became difficult for me to gather them up for the required press conferences as they were all having too good a time.

Born poor in Jamaica, Butch Stewart, who created and owned Sandals and, who very sadly passed away last year, was an amazing character and a self-made man who became one of the richest in the Caribbean with a net worth of over $1 billion.

He even personally supported the Jamaican currency during hard times.

Butch took myself, and the cricket press, on a jaunt to St Lucia in his private jet to show us around his major investments there.

A Sandals press conference
A Sandals press conference

With all his financial success and being treated as a virtual deity across the islands of the Caribbean, where he had invested vast sums of his money, he remained ‘one of the boys’ and terrific fun.

At the farewell party on the last night of our seven-day trip, Butch announced that everyone there could have a two-week stay in any of his all-inclusive resorts free of charge.

There are not many sponsors who treat the sports press so generously!

In 1995, Sandals had only five representatives in a small office in London, now they have 19 resorts on six Caribbean islands.

Butch was all about heart and love and his business mantra was ‘Exceed the expectations of the customer’.

In these increasingly difficult times if there was more ‘heart’ in everything we do, life might be a bit easier all round.

Maybe the soccer players and the Premier League would benefit from less cash and more heart!