Put a national football programme in place, JFF

Western News

Put a national football programme in place, JFF

The Sporting Edge

With Paul Reid

Thursday, June 25, 2020

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I was happy when the proposed two-tiered professional football structure to be implemented at the start of the next football season was delayed by a vote conducted among the stakeholders last week.

The vote ended in an eight-all tie, we were told, and that was sufficient for those opposed to it, to prevail.

Not that a two-tiered professional system is not needed in Jamaica where the local product is sadly lacking, but the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) was in a rush to add more burden to the sport that needs a lot of restructuring from the grass roots level, up to the very top.

The idea was basically to go back to the format that was in place in the 1990s where there was a secondary national club competition that was called the A-League, which provided a buffer between the Premier League and the parish competition.

It's not that two professional leagues are not needed, but the first thing the JFF must do is to put in a foundation to make them sustainable.

The Red Stripe Premier League (RSPL) as it is presently structured is not very sustainable, teams have to spend too much and earn way too little, and in any economy that is a bad business plan if we are talking about approaching football like a business.

If more than half the teams in a 12-team league struggle to pay their wage bills and maintain stability, how would just adding another tier of professional football without the requisite financial undergirding make it work?

Most of the clubs that are promoted to the RSPL and spend just one or two seasons before returning to the lower tiers find it practically impossible to compete with the top teams, in terms of spending on players, or even to have a suitable home venue that satisfies the basic requirements.

In most professional leagues, the revenue from television rights alone satisfies a significant part of their budget, at least levelling the playing field to some extent.

In 1998, still basking in the glow of taking the ReggaeBoyz to the Fifa World Cup in France and winning a game, then Coach Rene Simoes admitted that he failed in his job of putting in a proper infrastructure. He said qualifying for the World Cup was like building a house from the roof down.

How long ago was that?

Since then, they have tried several different formats, with the same results— abysmal football.

There is horrible football being played at the confederation and parish levels, too many unqualified people masquerading as coaches, too many players playing in leagues where they should be paying to watch.

If there is to be a complete overhaul of the football product, it must be a multi-level approach, and not just at the top, hoping for a trickle-down effect.

It would be better if the improvement was to start at the high school level, but that would require a quantum leap in how the JFF currently operates.

The JFF must start behaving as the national body and not just overseeing the RSPL and the national teams, leaving the development of the players to Inter-secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA), which has never accepted that role, to begin with.

Successive ISSA leaderships have repeatedly said their mandate is not to develop players for the national or even club programmes, but to provide a balanced education for the students.

A league lasting just over three months, the Manning and daCosta Cup, cannot be seen as the crucible where our next World Cup qualifying team will be forged. While the talent can be spotted there, it is up to the national governing body and their technical people, to ensure there are programmes in place that will ensure the continued development of the talent, and not just organising competitions either, that is just one small part of the process.

It is to the shame of the JFF that we have not been able to have sustainable national female leagues, not just one club league, and once again it has come down to ISSA to provide the outlet at the youth level.

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