THE cash-strapped Jamaica Football Federation (JFF), which has a soaring debt of nearly $200 million, has the mammoth task of garnering at least $700 million to keep the Reggae Boyz’s programme on the 2014 Mission to Rio World Cup Football Campaign going.
“The budget for 2013 is currently being worked on and my estimate, from here on to the World Cup… will be costing in the region of $700 million,” Leighton McKnight, JFF board member and chairman of its finance committee, said at yesterday’s Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange at the newspaper’s Beechwood Avenue headquarters in Kingston.
“The programme is very costly. We have to play a number of matches, both qualification matches and friendly internationals... and some of the numbers are not difficult to comprehend,” he added.
McKnight, a managing partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Jamaica and former president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Jamaica, was recently appointed head of the new CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football) Audit & Compliance Committee.
“As you know, when this administration took over we incurred debts, and as we speak the debt of the JFF is nearly $200m,” McKnight said. “We are not in a very good state in terms of financing [but] we are able to get by with the understanding of creditors and the understanding of the staff.”
Jamaica, the first Englishspeaking Caribbean country to qualify for the World Cup Finals at the 1998 France edition, has advanced to the final round of qualification for the 2014 event.
The Jamaicans will therefore face Mexico, the United States of America, Costa Rica, Honduras, and Panama.
Following the round-robin set of games, which starts next February and ends in November, the top three teams will secure direct berths to the FIFA World Cup Finals in Brazil and the fourth-placed team will have a home-and-away play-off with the winner from the Oceania Confederation.
With that in mind, Jamaica will be guaranteed five home games and the JFF is banking on local support to offset its expenses from match revenues (gate receipts, broadcast rights, match fees), along with sponsorships, government subventions, FIFA subventions, merchandising and royalties.
“The US game was a good one, and if we can get five UStype crowds in the stadium next year we will be good. Our gate receipts can be like $45 million, so you multiply that by five (and) that is over $200 million”, McKnight said.
But based on Jamaica’s precarious position entering the last match against Caribbean neighbours Antigua and Barbuda, in which qualification to the final round was in doubt, the JFF suffered at the gate and made a loss.
With expenses rattling up from $600,000 for the public address system to $2 million to rent the stadium, and another $2 million for advertising, $800,000 for workers at the game, players’ costs (match fees and incentives), and up to $5 million for air transportation, the JFF suffered badly in that venture.
“When we stage a match at the stadium it will run us about $20 million; multiply that by five [and] you can see it’s $100 million,” said McKnight.
The JFF will also incur expenses for the away games as airfares, accommodation and players’ match fees can run into the millions of dollars. But McKnight remained optimistic that the JFF would be able to finance the budget, which includes, not only the senior Reggae Boyz, but eight other national teams, including the youth teams and the women’s programme.
With a number of sponsors already on board, including Digicel, GraceKennedy, Stewart’s Auto, Courts, Wata, and Kappa to name a few, additional sponsorship is being solicited by the federation.
“We are expecting more people to come on board and the responses so far, despite the economic crunch, we are getting positive feedback and one in particular you will hear the announcement in a couple of weeks,” revealed McKnight.
“I appeal to the public that it’s an investment, we know it’s tight, but it’s what we have to do. In the 1998 campaign things were much easier because players were based here and that took care of the airfare issue, and on top of that we had an airline sponsor and the airline industry was not like now,” McKnight said.
“So every step of the way we used to get discount or free tickets, we don’t have that anymore. Players have to be flown in, so that makes the situation much more challenging.”
But despite the financial crunch, JFF boss Captain Horace Burrell has reassured fans that admission prices for the home matches at the National Stadium will not be increased.
“Certainly things are very hard on the Jamaican people and I think it would be very difficult to ask the Jamaican people to pay more at the turnstiles,” Burrell said.
“… The cost of entering the stadium should be more, but it is extremely difficult, and it is with this in mind that I say we will have to seek other avenues to try and increase our revenues.”