Great need for good sports facilities

Saturday, October 22, 2016

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This newspaper is pleased that the venue for the rescheduled Caribbean Cup qualifier between Jamaica and Suriname has been shifted from the Anthony Spaulding Sports Complex in Arnett Gardens to the National Stadium.

Readers will recall that the game, which should have been played earlier this month, was postponed as a result of the threat posed at the time by Hurricane Matthew.

The game is now scheduled for Sunday, November 13.

So as far as this newspaper is aware, no official reason was ever given for the original decision to host the Surinamese in Arnett Gardens.

We are left to presume that host organisers, Jamaica Football Federation, were seeking to reduce losses, given the expectation at the time of a very small home crowd. That small crowd would have been the inevitable consequence of public disappointment after the Reggae Boyz’ elimination from CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers in September.

Expectations would have changed for the better following the Jamaica national team’s stirring comeback against Guyana in that country on October 11. The Reggae Boyz, made up of local-based players and North America-based professionals, were two goals down at half-time, but rebounded to win the game 4-2 at the end of regulation and extra time.

Presumably then, improved expectations for attendance have now led to the decision for a venue change to the National Stadium.

While the quality of the Anthony Spaulding Sports Complex has improved down the years, the National Stadium is obviously the best facility for hosting high-level football. For that reason we are happy for the change.

As much as possible, we believe, regional and international football should be played at our best available facilities which, as we understand it, are currently the National Stadium in Kingston and the Montego Bay Sports Complex in Montego Bay.

That said, the gap between the best available sports facilities and others remains much too large for comfort.

Note how selective organisers and sponsors of the Inter-secondary Schools’ Sports Association/FLOW Super Cup have been in their choice of fields for that cash-rich high schools’ competition. They have gone to the extent of including the headquarters of cricket, Sabina Park, among the match venues.

Ensuring good playing standards is one big reason, but also the FLOW Super Cup organisers are anxious to present a good television picture of football, which is impossible on many of the very poor surfaces which players from high school to premier league level must use as a matter of course.

Successive governments have pledged to improve sporting facilities across the country; however, progress has been slow because of the cash-strapped state of the public purse.

We think it would be very appropriate if some of our leading private sector companies take an interest in the infrastructural aspect of sports development. We are aware that some companies have actually conducted such projects, making a huge difference for beneficiaries. If they could join hands in a concerted, sustainable way to improve sports facilities, the impact would be so much greater.

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