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Tony Harford - Sports Promoter

TonyHarford.JPGHarford was born into a humble home. His father was a truck driver while his mother was a store clerk. He had his early schooling at Rosary Boys and Fatima College. He says the savannah may have had an influence on him as most of his PE classes were played there. While he was not excellent at sports, he claimed that he was good at organizing sporting events. Harford reflects, “sometimes your future is shaped at an early age.”

At Fatima College he would often participate in reading passages aloud. The school would organize reading competitions and Harford at 14 years would top the school. After a few years of constantly winning, Clive Pantin, the school’s principal, suggested to him about a career in broadcasting. He decided to apply.

At age 17 Harford was a radio announcer and probably the youngest male announcer in Trinidad. But it was not for long as a strike threatened his career. Harford was cleverly sent to Radio Guardian (610) during a strike He would spend most of his radio broadcasting career there and left at 23 to study aviation in Florida.

After he returned Harford was offered a job at the only television station at the time. Even though he was sports editor, he would double as a news presenter. In 1988 he attended a press conference hosted by a UK businessman who brought the Indian football team. The promoter announced that Trinidad had the biggest potential of all West Indies destinations. The obstacle was that Trinidad hotels charged too much and if they could find the right partner they would bring 10-12 teams per year. Harford went back to the station with that thought.

A loose deal was struck with the promoter to use their brand, Kestours. He joined with two other partners and leased a bungalow in Maraval. Harford described it as “rake and scrape”, to make it accommodating. Kestours did send teams however the volumes were too small to make it profitable. The market it seems was right under their noses. Visiting groups from Tobago however found the TT$25 per night irresistible. Business started to boom but the owner had different plans.

Harford made a bold move and bought a property in Woodbrook despite the recession. He had good occupancy with a low rate of US$10. The Trinidad world cup team spent most of the time there when they were training for the match against the US in 1989. Harford by now decided to be a full time entrepreneur and resigned his full time job at the television station. “My friends called me a lunatic” he recalls. 

He was a BWIA pilot, journalist and editor but he was new to running a business. “I must have made some abominable mistakes. It was trial and error,” he admits. It was like fixing the plane in flight.  In 1989 his first big break was getting to manage the Shell Caribbean Cup. Despite this he ran the business for 17 years without a profit.

Sport entrepreneur, Jack Warner came in 2002 with an opportunity that made Harford re-think his business model. Warner was frustrated with not being able to follow football teams around. Harford came up with the idea to charter planes to fly direct to the event. This carried more risk but potentially more profit. In 2006 there was the opportunity to send the team to Germany. Harford was now becoming a more seasoned negotiator and had some big names bidding for his business.

Charters were doing well but All Sport Promotions started to do real sports management. They started the Republic Bank Children Soccer competition and today it is the longest running kids sport event. Harford took FIFA’s in-door soccer game and adapted it for kids by having a smaller out field and goal post. All Sport product innovation did not stop there.

All Sport had the first 20/20 cricket match at the Queen’s Park Oval in 1997. They pioneered the first ever regional wind ball tournament and another was Caribbean 7-a-side football game. An under 10 kids football tournament was successful this year and will be rolled out regionally. Harford sees beyond Trinidad and has his sights set on going international.

A serial entrepreneur who also started WMJX 100.5FM, Harford has one of the most recognizable voices in the business and he has not charged for the use of it. Instead he asks that a donation can be made in his name. He says he is not driven by money but by doing the things he loves.

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