Sep 29

The global sports market was valued at approximately US$480 billion in 2018, having grown at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.3% since 2014, and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 5.9% to reaching nearly US$614 billion by 2022. In 2017, the European Union (EU) 28 Member States spent €51.3 billion of government expenditure on recreation and sport, and the ratio of government recreation and sport expenditure to total expenditure varied across EU Member States with the highest share of expenditure on recreation and sport in Hungary. The  lowest was Croatia.[1] The United States of American (USA) has the biggest market sector for sporting services, amounting to US$31.83 billion with real personal consumption expenditures on sports and recreational goods and related services totalling US$229.201 million in 2018.[2] Despite unfavourable climate changes and shortages of sport professionals, between 2014 and 2018, market growth and rapid urbanization contributed to the growth in the sporting sector. Going forward, increasing sports sponsorships, growing popularity of sports, economic growth, an increase in the number of internet accessible devices, and the emergence of multiple sports channels to capture viewership will drive growth. [3]

In the Caribbean and Latin American, expenditure on sports is modest. According to the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) 2017 report, the Caribbean lags in sports spending and points to fiscal budgets from 17 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean which shows that government spending on sports averages around 0.1 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP). The region’s spending on sports is about one-third of the percentage spent by European nations, without considering special programmes for elite athletes or Olympic financing. The report also argues that the region needs to spend more on sports, not only to produce better athletes but also to foster happier, safer, and healthier societies.

The report notes that sports can enhance productivity by improving physical and mental health, discouraging substance abuse, and inspiring athletic and academic achievement. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the prevalence of physical inactivity is estimated to be 35 per cent higher in women than in men worldwide, and 41 per cent higher in Latin America and the Caribbean. Almost one in four adults in Latin America and the Caribbean qualify as obese that is a body mass index of 30 per cent fat or higher and more than half are overweight. Within Latin America and the Caribbean, Caribbean countries are the least active. According to the report, in Brazil, salaries of physically active individuals are between 15 per cent and 31 per cent higher than those of sedentary counterparts. In the United States, sports participation also generated a one percentage point increase in female college attendance and a one to two percentage point rise in female labour force participation.[4] Sporting services are traded on the international market through four modes. The first mode is cross-border supply of sporting services which covers e-sports to consumers via the internet. The second mode is the consumption of sporting services abroad which refers to fans who travel to experience a live game or to consume any form of sporting services. The third mode is commercial presence which refers to the commercial establishment of a sports firm abroad, either in the form of a local branch or a subsidiary. The fourth mode covers individuals travelling from their own country to supply services in another, for example, a coach or athlete.

In July 1991, the World Trade Organization (WTO) Secretariat compiled a services sectoral classification list (W/120) to ensure Member States comparability and consistency in commitments undertaken at the WTO. This is a list of services sectors and sub-sectors covered under the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS).[5] However, the 160 sub-sectors are less detailed than the categories contained in the United Nations Provisional Central Product Classification (CPC). Many countries have made commitments in sporting services which are classified under the subheading Sporting and other recreational services (964). In 2020, a total of 44 countries have made commitments under this subheading.[6]

Belize did not make any commitments in sporting or recreational services at the WTO, but sports is played in communities across the country for leisure, recreational and competitive purposes. Throughout the country, tournaments and competitions in various disciplines – football, basketball, volleyball, and cycling, among others- are organised regularly with participation of athletes and the engagement of sports fans. Belize, through the Ministry responsible for Sports and the National Sports Council, developed a National Sports Policy entitled Contributing to the Realisation of National Development Goals HORIZON 2030 through sports (2016 – 2025). The policy is built around three thematic areas: sporting for all, sporting for excellence, and sporting for development.

To further develop standards to support the implementation of the National Sports Policy, the Sports Council has partnered with a few national federations to commence quarterly meetings to ensure harmonization within the sector. One such partnership has been in the form of Memorandum of Understandings (MOUs) which has enabled the Sports Council to pool resources. Currently, a MOU with the Football Federation exists, and there are plans to draft MOUs with other associations including the Volleyball Association and the national secondary sporting associations. Partnerships have also been forged with international organizations, such as the Pan American Sports Organization (PANAM Sports), the International Federation of Football Association (FIFA) which assists with training in coaching, and the Central American Integration System (SICA), under which Belize collaborates with The Central American Council of Sports and Recreation (CODICADER) to participate in Central American games.

Sporting facilities are key in the development of sports and athletes in Belize.  Currently, two sporting facilities meet international standards: the CIVIC Centre in Belize City and ISIDORO BEATON in the City of Belmopan. Unfortunately, it is costly for people to access stadiums that meet international standards, which prohibits many persons to readily access these and to fully maximize its use. Therefore, smaller facilities are needed, around the country, so community members can access sporting facilities. With the financial support of the Mexican and Indian government, Belize has been able to build smaller sporting facilities in Belize City and San Ignacio, respectively.

Given the contribution of sports to individuals, communities and national development, the Ministry of Education also has a responsibility to: 1. include health, physical and sports education in the school curriculum; 2. identify centres of excellence for the delivery of sports for the development of emerging talent, regardless of age, gender, physical or mental ability, social status, ethnicity or political or religious convictions; 3. collaborate with the National Sports Council, representatives from national sporting organizations and school sport organizations to prepare teachers to deliver health, physical and sports education in schools through development of appropriate certificate, diploma or other programmes; and 4. to implement programmes and competitions for schools.[7]

Many developing countries struggle to identify funding for essential services and have very little left to allocate to seemingly less important services, for example sports. With an annual budget of BZ$2.2 million, the Sports Council, formed 31 December 2000, is responsible “to promote, develop and improve the knowledge and practice of sports in the interest of the social well-being of and the enjoyment of leisure by Belizeans…” [8]. Additionally, it receives duty exemptions upon request from the Ministry of Finance for sporting equipment, inputs or building material relevant to the sporting services.  However, with 26 sporting facilities, 110 staff, and management of primary school sporting tournaments country-wide, very little is left to adequately fund existing programmes or new programmes. Part of the sporting budget comes from the revenue of lottery funds which contributes $240,000 per year to the sport’s council budget. With most of its budget allocated to operational expenses, the Sports Council needs financial, human resources, and technical assistance over a five-year period for the development of innovative sports programmes that reflect the needs of the community. Limited funding affects participation and competition in international events, marketing and branding of sporting services in Belize, professional sports coverage, as well as reliable data to monitor athletes’ progress, and the ability to attract and retain qualified persons in sports management.

The IDB 2017 report states that programmes with the best intentions that are not well designed and monitored could have unintended negative results. The report further states that sporting programmes can increase the prevalence of unacceptable behaviours, such as substance abuse and violence.[9] WADA is a foundation initiated by the International Olympic Committee based in Canada to promote, coordinate and monitor the fight against drugs in sports. In August 2018, the National Anti-Doping Organization (NADO) in Belize was suspended by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) because not enough was being done to combat doping in sports in Belize. The ban has since been lifted and an anti-doping office is housed at the Sports Council. However, Belize needs assistance to implement the provisions of the WADA Treaty and to finance the operation of the anti-doping office. Currently, the operational expenses of the national anti-doping office falls under the responsibility of the Sports Council. To further support the work of the unit, closer testing labs are needed. Samples are currently processed by the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and Cuba’s laboratory testing facilities.

Despite these challenges, opportunities exist for the sporting sector to thrive. Greater use of technology to capture and measure athlete’s performance will need to be employed by the Sport’s Council and sports organizations and promote the sector as a viable and lucrative business. Opportunities exist in the region as well. Under the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), sportspersons can live and work in the 13 CSME participating Member States.[10] Sportsperson for the purpose of movement among the Caribbean are persons who are active in or qualified to enter a field of sports with the specific purpose of earning a living as a professional or semi-professional.  Such persons perform functions such as but not limited to athlete, coach team leader, sports manager and promoter, massage therapist and events manager.

To gain the benefits from sports, Belize must be prepared to invest more in the sector, through the creation of programmes that reflect the needs of society as well as through improved marketing strategies. The benefits from participation in sports are numerous: from improving cognitive functioning and physical health, to character and moral development, instilling respect, honesty and fair play, and building a sense of community. A major unforeseeable factor impeding growth in the sporting sector is the pandemic caused by COVID-19. With many sporting activities suspended or cancelled to limit the spread of the disease, every aspect of the sporting value chain has been affected negatively: athletes, leagues, fitness studios and the media that covers sporting events. This combined with the threat from home entertainment, can weaken the sector even more. However, opportunities can emerge, if the sector is able to capitalize on the increase in media consumption and find innovative ways to engage fans and allow them to use technology to experience games live and remain physically active without having to be physically present in a gym or stadium. Identifying the right approaches will allow the sector to emerge from this crisis stronger and with greater demand.



[1] Eurostat, (2019, November 23). How much do governments spend on recreation and sport? Retrieved 20 July 2020 from

[2] U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Real personal consumption expenditures: Sports and recreational goods and related services: Other sporting and recreational goods. Retrieved 20 July 2020 from FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis from

[3] Business Wire (2019, May 14). Sports – $614 Billion Global Market Opportunities & Strategies to 2022 – Business Wire. Retrieved from—614-Billion-Global-Market-Opportunities

[4] Jaitman, L and Scartascini, C. (2017, December). Sports in Development. Retrieved 20 July, 2020

[5] World Trade Organization W/120 sectoral classification: Business Services; Communication Services; Construction and related Engineering Services; Distribution services; Educational Services; Environmental Services; Financial services; Health related and Social services; Tourism and Travel Related Services; Recreational, Cultural and Sporting Services; Transport Services; other services not included elsewhere.

[6] World Trade Organization (2020) I-TIPs database. Retrieved 20 July 2020 from Afghanistan, Albania, Angola, Armenia, Australia, Bolivia, Plurinational State of Cabo Verde, Central African Republic, Costa Rica, Cuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Dominica, European Union 25, Ecuador, The Gambia, Georgia, Grenada, Iceland, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, the State of Kyrgyz Republic, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Malaysia, Moldova, Republic of Montenegro, North Macedonia, Peru, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Switzerland, Chinese Taipei, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Ukraine, United States of America, Venezuela, and Bolivarian Republic of Viet Nam

[7] Government of Belize. The National Sports Policy. Contributing to the realisation of National Development Goals HORIZON 2030 through sports (2016 – 2025). Retrieved 20 July 2019 from

[8] Sports Act Chapter 46 Section 6 (a). Retrieved on 20 July 2020 from

[9] Jaitman, L and Scartascini, C. (2017, December). Ibid.

[10] Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago and Suriname.