Faulkland FC, Falmouth FC rue Super League cancellation

Observer West writer

Thursday, May 21, 2020

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MONTEGO BAY, St James — Faulkland FC, the defending champions of the Jamaica Football Federation Western Confederation Super League and mid-season champions Falmouth United, have expressed their disappointment in the cancellation of all organised football competitions in the island due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While executives of both clubs say they understood the health considerations that forced the hands of the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) in calling off the season, officials at Faulkland FC and Falmouth United say they were not satisfied with how the decision was arrived at, and how it was disseminated.

The league will start next season with the same 12 teams participating.

Dalton Reid, the president of Faulkland FC, said his club only knew of the cancellation of the season upon seeing the statement that was released by the JFF, while Falmouth United's Vice-President Brenton Rodney said they were “disheartened by the decision” which was taken “without proper consultation with all the stakeholders involved”.

But Sandra Christie, operations officer at Montego Bay United (MBU), said while the club thought it had a great chance to return to the Premier League, she believes that organisers had little options but to pull the plug on the season, which was more than halfway completed.

Falmouth United, who were unbeaten all season, had won the mid-season final over FC Reno, and led the combined points standings with five games to go, when the season was disrupted.

The Lenworth Hyde-coached team were on 25 points, one more than Faulkland FC, followed by Montego Bay United on 22 points and FC Reno on 18 points, rounding off the top four.

During a digital press conference on Friday JFF President Michael Ricketts said, “after extensive discussions and consultations that included the JFF competitions and regulations committee, the JFF medical committee, the minister of sports, Ministry of Health and Wellness, other football stakeholders, the board of directors of the JFF has accepted the recommendations of the competitions and regulations committee as it relates to the rest of the 2019-20 football season, the 2019-2020 football season will be cancelled.”

“This is for all levels of competition, nationally and in the parishes, that is, National Premier League, Super League, Major League, etcetera,” he said.

“The board [of directors] is strongly of the view that the Jamaica Football Federation should prioritise health and wellness of all its stakeholders — and those would include sponsors, media, players, coaches, referees, administrators, medical staff, [and] grounds personnel — over all other considerations.”

He added that the JFF had taken into consideration, the debilitating effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the country as a whole, which has led to disruptions of monumental proportions never before experienced in the history of the country.

Reid told the Observer West that subsequent to the JFF's press conference, and based on what he has read, he “cannot, but wonder who were the other football stakeholders who were consulted, as we at Faulkland only became aware of the cancellation of the season with the JFF's press release.”

“Now while we can understand the reason for the decision and agree that our collective health supersede all other considers, it is most painful that the powers that be, didn't find some avenues to incorporate us [western confederation] in the process, or at least alert us before the press release,” said Reid, who is also an attorney.

He said his club was also looking forward to the chance of qualifying for the Premier League after their “painful” miss the previous year.

“We were confident that we would have made it this year. However, it is what it is,” he stressed.

Rodney in the meantime, argued that his club believes that the season was cancelled prematurely.

“We all understand that we are having a serious health crisis in the country, and the world at large, but we think it was a bit premature to cancel all football [leagues]. We at Falmouth United have invested heavily this season with both cash and our time, who is gonna compensate us and the other clubs that have done the same?” he asked.

The Falmouth United executive member said the JFF should have waited before taking the decision given the season was almost completed.

“The season has gone over half of the way with only eight games to complete, inclusive of semi-finals and final, why couldn't we sit and discuss the way forward instead of being dictated to without any input. Couldn't this be done in a more democratic way where everyone can be comfortable?” he asked.

Christie also felt that MBU could have been back in the Premier League, was it not for the cancellation.

“Of course MBU would say that we are disappointed about not been able to return to top-flight football as we were gaining momentum and strength at the point where the Western Confederation League stopped, and we know that we would have been stronger with every passing game, and I believe we would have qualified,” she argued.

MBU were relegated from the Premier League the previous season.

Christie told the Observer West that she believes that the JFF had no choice but to cancel the season.

“Unfortunately we are faced with a pandemic and I don't know that the JFF had any alternative because in the instance of this COVID-19, the first priority becomes health and safety…and in recognition of the effects of the pandemic, the JFF would have had to consider how they would have factored the continuation of football while trying to deal with COVID-19,” she argued.

She added that the cost of continuing in “the uncertain conditions” could have also been a factor.

“The other consideration or factor would have been the economics of the football and with most of the competitions having gone 75 per cent or over, understandably, the sponsorship resources, whether it is the Premier League sponsors, or the individual club sponsors for the lower divisions, would have pretty much been depleted,” she said. “And if you think about what would have happened if we were to continue, then certainly gate receipts would be impacted negatively because people would have been fearful of exposing themselves, so there would be less patronage, less returns from the gate and subsequently less ability of the clubs, especially those who rely heavily on gate receipts, to sustain the running or the operation of the clubs...”

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