JAMAICA'S premier knockout football competition, the Champions Cup, will again be sponsored by Flow following a year's absence.
To be called the Flow Champions Cup, the competition returns more concentrated to include the champion teams from the 14 parishes, along with the 12 National Premier League teams with an increase in the sponsorship take-home dollars to teams.
Following a one-year hiatus, the premier national football knockout competition is back with teams vying for a share of $2.3 million on offer. The competition will be played over an eight-week period starting next week Wednesday. For the first time in the competition's 22-year-old history, the Flow Champions Cup competition will be played under lights during games contested in the semi-finals and final.
Donovan White, vice-president of sales and marketing at Columbus Communications Jamaica Limited, operators of the Flow network, made the announcement at a gala press launch at the Barbican playing field in St Andrew, yesterday.
And after stepping aside for one year to make great provision for greater participation, White explained: "We did not leave the competition, far from it. When you think of it, last year was a difficult year for a number of reasons, one of which we did not believe that playing the competition at the end of the football season was doing the best thing for football, and what we are trying to achieve through the sport.
"And so we thought it would be best to delay the next competition to the start of the football season when all the energy was moving in the right direction. You have the synergy of playing alongside the Premier League at the start of the season when everybody is up and about. With this move we thought that we would have given everybody a chance to have that opportunity to see both competitions in action when players are primed for competition."
He added: "And what we have done this year is to really take on the responsibility to reinforce the concept of night football from the quarter-finals on through to the final. We've brought live TV to the game, we are going to bring live radio to the game, and we have introduced Robbie Earle and Aaron Lawrence to the game.... to give some tips and get working.
"And so we feel that we've brought a little razzle dazzle with a difference to the football with a KO element. Football is an exciting game, as you must have a winner. We at Flow are very excited about this year, and think it is going the be the best Flow Champions Cup ever, and we plan to build from there."
Following what appears to be a rescue package of this year's Flow Champions Cup, Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) President Captain Horace Burrell was heartened by the return of Columbus Networks to again sponsor the event for what he believes is their correct role of sponsoring football.
"Football," Captain Burrell declared, "is by far the most popular sport in the world, and in Jamaica there is no difference where this is concern. So Mrs English (Michele), you have chosen a winner. English is president and chief operating officer of the Barbados-based company.
"Let me say, I do not regard sponsorship where company is coming in to hand out something sponsorship in football is a partnership, and I am very, very elated this morning that you have seen it fit to partner with us. I can tell you that the benefit that should accrue to you are so numerous that you would come to us before we come to you going forward, and I must really thank you.
"Flow, as you know ladies and gentlemen, has been out of the frame for the last year, and it was very difficult for us to continue this competition, but I am so happy this morning realising that Flow has indeed returned and will be the sponsors of this year's competition," Captain Burrell added.
Looking at the prospect for the future of the Flow Champions Cup and football as a whole, the JFF boss said that the presentation by White, that the prize money has been increased, "is a right move".
Meanwhile, chairman of the Premier League Clubs Association (PLCA), Edward Seaga, praised Flow for arousing community interest and camaraderie as a game of football did in the old days, through the staging of Flow Champions Cup competition among the 14 parishes.
"We are heartened that Flow has taken the competition back to the country for the teams that were parish leaders and winners to now represent their communities, and this is a step that could get rural and deep-rural areas back into competitions," he said.
Meanwhile, Round One of the Flow Champions Cup KO competition begins with 10 matches. Five on September 11 and another five on the 12. Next week Wednesday will feature the first five games with Savannah SC vs Holland United; Highgate vs Axum Sports Club; Barbican vs Exchange United; Humble Lion vs Cavalier SC; Port Morant United vs Eagle Strikers. The following day will then feature Sporting Central vs Jamalco FC; Black Star FC vs Logwood United; New Green FC vs Reggae Youths; Sandals Whitehouse vs Rivoli United; and Montego Bay United vs Rockfort FC.