THE Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) has made lighter its soaring debt of nearly $200 million with the news that the English FA has written off the £153,431.94 (approximately $22 million) owed to it by the local body.
JFF boss Captain Horace Burrell said following "a fruitful meeting" between the parties, FA chairman David Bernstein decided to cancel the debt which was incurred during a two-match tour of England back in 2006.
"The gesture is a noble one which will go a long way in easing the Federation's crunching debt and to tighten the bonds between Jamaica's football and the English FA," Burrell told the Jamaica Observer after yesterday's meeting at the FA headquarters at Wembley Stadium.
"But it goes to show what inspired negotiations can do. Also, this favourable culmination speaks to the high regard each party involved has of the other, and it shows, too, that progressive thinking is a winner any day," he added.
During the life of the debt, the English FA has been very patient and understanding of the JFF's financial position and has postponed payment of the sum on numerous occasions.
The last time the FA extended the loan schedule was back in 2008 when it said it would defer collection until after the South Africa World Cup 2010.
Back then, following a meeting in Kingston involving the English FA's Director of Corporate Affairs, Simon Jackson; head of international affairs, Jane Bateman; and senior advisor to the England 2018 FIFA World Cup bid team, Peter Hargitay, the JFF was granted a stay of execution and a guarantee the matter would not go to court.
"We expressed our continuing understanding for the work that Captain Burrell, Horace Reid (former general secretary), and others are doing with the JFF in trying to move football forward in this country.
"We would continue to help and assist the JFF in coming up with a way to find a mutually agreeable and acceptable solution to the difficulties that have been created in the past," Johnson said at the time
as he addressed reporters at the Courtleigh Hotel in New Kingston.
The debt in question arose after the previous JFF administration, headed by Crenston Boxhill, failed to hand over to the England FA the agreed portion of sales from the 9,118 tickets they were granted to sell to Jamaican fans for the June 3, 2006 friendly international game at Old Trafford, which saw England defeat the Reggae Boyz, 6-0. The tickets were to be sold for £25 each, which would total £227,950.
Of that sum, according to JFF documents, 204 tickets were unsold, which would total £5,100, and the JFF had tabled a charge of £17,518.64 for "expense to sell" the tickets.
This charge was later dropped, the Observer understands. There was also a match fee of £48,648.65 and airfare and accommodation fee of £20,769.41, resulting in the current debt of £153,431.94.
Also coming out of that fateful trip in 2006 where the Boyz also lost, 4-1, against African side Ghana, the JFF was also sued by the Chris Nathaniel-led NVA Management Limited for services rendered to the Federation to the tune of £10,000 (J$1.5 million). The matter was later taken before a Central London County Court and an order made for the sum to be settled.
Not being able to honour the settlement promptly, bailiffs acting for NVA Management showed up at the JFF's New Kingston offices to seize assets, and in an effort to save face, the Federation had to divert funds from its wage bill in order to pay over J$850,000 on the spot to the bailiff to prevent an ugly situation.
That debt has since been totally settled.
Also coming out of yesterday's "vigorous and enterprising" talks with the new FA head, Jamaica's Reggae Boyz have received a promise of a possible friendly international against England at home, but there is a catch.
"After requesting a full international against England in Jamaica, Mr Bernstein has given the FA's commitment to the idea and promised to accommodate us for their 2014 schedule. But this will only happen if we qualify for the World Cup," Burrell disclosed.
"He (Berstein) said that 2013 is out of the question as you know these teams have full schedules, but (he) said definitely, if we are able to qualify for the World Cup in Brazil, and considering the JFF is still celebrating its Centenary, he would seriously factor Jamaica into the 2014 schedule for a pre-World Cup warm-up match," the JFF boss added.
Burrell said hosting England at the National Stadium could bring various benefit to Jamaica.
"First of all, it would raise the profile of our football, and you know wherever the English football team goes a battery of journalists will be in tow and all eyes would be on our country for the period, so a lot of exposure will accrue for brand Jamaica.
"Specifically, tourism could be the biggest winner here," noted the CONCACAF Executive Committee member.