SANTA CRUZ, St Elizabeth — The Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) is to engage stakeholders "in the coming weeks" on plans for a radical restructuring of the football programme including a reduction of the number of football clubs to "manageable levels".
Second vice-president of the JFF, Bruce Gaynor, told the 48th Annual Awards of the St Elizabeth Football Association last Thursday that the changes, including a well-organised franchise system, were necessary to build and sustain a modern, professional football programme.
"Our future in football depends on what we do now," Gaynor told footballers, coaches, administrators, sponsors and well-wishers gathered at the Luana Sports Club just outside the parish capital Black River.
It's hoped that the changes proposed by the JFF technical committee will be passed by the JFF Board in time for the start of the 2013/14 football season, Gaynor said.
Central to the proposed transformation is a reduction of the number of recognised football clubs across the island from the current 450.
"The current demographics and economics cannot support the number of clubs operating across the island in order to select eligible players for national and club purposes to ply their trade professionally," Gaynor said.
"Financial support, overall good management, proper infrastructure and the talent pool of players is stretched very wide in Jamaica and consequently, stultify all efforts to improve the level of football in the country," he added.
At the same time, said Gaynor, there would be a move to establish "proper feeding programmes" for clubs; a three-tiered national competition regime including Premier
League, A League and Division One; a remodelling of football clubs at the national level as viable business entities; an effort to improve the quality of play, playing facilities as well as management of clubs; and to improve the quality of players being produced for the national teams.
Gaynor said there would also be more opportunities for referees to be a part of the elite panel.
Under the proposed revamped system franchises will be established to perpetuity and can be bought and sold.
Gaynor said franchise holders would be guaranteed an initial two years without being demoted/promoted from their respective tier. After the 2015-2016 year, normal promotion/demotion rules will apply, he said.
At the parish level, a senior league would be in place in each parish consisting of no more than 12 teams, Gaynor said.
The JFF executive indicated that opposition was expected to the proposed changes.
"We at the JFF think that when these changes are made, there may be dissenting voices, yes, we are human, but the masses must know and understand what this is about. Our future in football and the sustainability of the product depends on what we do now," Gaynor said.
In a clear reference to recent disputes involving the high cost of state-owned facilities, Gaynor said there would have to be "input" from "leaders" outside of football.
"Our sports including football will not survive without input from our leaders. In England the boroughs or councils are responsible for the upgrading of fields... Jamaica today sees the state acting as big stick landlords over the same facilities which they profess was built for the communities. No club can survive on some of the cost that they must bear, we must find a way to change the system and it is through these recommendations that we must first implement to give teeth and tenure to the owners of our football," Gaynor ended.