MONTEGO BAY, St James — A move to replace long-standing equipment sponsors Puma with Chinese-based sports equipment providers 361 Degrees was rejected by an overwhelming vote by the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA), the Jamaica Observer has learnt.
Multiple sources have confirmed that the move was out-voted 14-3 at a recent JAAA executive meeting held at the JAAA’s offices on Tremaine Road in Kingston. It is understood that the 361 Degrees offer is “extremely lucrative” in terms of cash value, and the value of the equipment that would be supplied by the China-based firm that has signed several Jamaican athletes over the past two years.
Puma, meanwhile, has personal contracts with several top Jamaican athletes, including global sprinting star and double World Record holder Usain Bolt, Olympic Games bronze medallist and 110m hurdles National Record holder Hansle Parchment, and women’s 400m hurdles champion Ristananna Tracey.
When contacted yesterday, President of the JAAA Dr Warren Blake offered “no comment” in response to the Observer’s question.
This is the latest in a long, drawn-out move to replace Puma, the equipment suppliers to the Jamaican national track and field teams since 2002, and Observer sources are predicting that this will not be the last move from sporting goods companies to muscle in on what is one of the hottest properties in world track and field.
According to one source “361 is not the only sporting goods firm that has intentions of replacing Puma [as equipment sponsors] and we could see other bids soon”.
The Puma deal with the JAAA is set to run through 2016 and the Olympic Games in Brazil, but the Jamaica Olympic Association’s (JOA’s) deal will run to 2020, which means that track and field teams representing the island could compete in different uniforms depending on the event.
With the JOA responsible for Jamaican teams to the Olympic Games, Commonwealth Games and Pan-American events, Puma would outfit the athletes under the existing deal.
If the JAAA manages to get out of the Puma deal, however, it would mean athletes taking part in the three IAAF major events — World Youths, World Juniors and World Championships — as well as the CARIFTA Games and the Junior and Senior Central American and Caribbean Games would wear the uniforms supplied by whichever firm the JAAA chooses.
Puma’s deal with the JAAA became topical late last year during the run-up to the JAAA’s Annual General Meeting, with at least two of the three candidates for the presidency, including Dr Blake who retained the position, making public comments about the length and contents of the contract.
In a letter sent to JAAA treasurer Ludlow Watts in March last year by Blake, which was leaked to the media, the JAAA boss questioned the whereabouts of the contract saying he had to call the widow of the former JAAA president Howard Aris seeking to find the JAAA’s copy without luck.
Lincoln Eatmon, one of the presidential candidates, also questioned the terms of the contract.
In response to questions posed by this newspaper last year, Pascal Rolling, the International Running sport marketing manager at PUMA and the face of the German sporting goods company in Jamaica, said then that some comments might have been made out of “a lack of credible information”.
Rolling said then his company’s involvement with the island’s top sport has been beneficial to both the JAAA and other associations, including the Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA) as well as schools and colleges.
As far as the national teams go, Rolling said the collaboration has not only benefitted Jamaica in terms of finances but in other areas as well. “We are here to support Jamaica and the Jamaican athletes to the best of our abilities,” he had said.
“The service in terms of equipment for national teams has been dramatically improved since Puma took over. On a communication level our worldwide advertising campaign featuring Jamaican athletics has created major impact for our mutual benefit,” Rolling added.
Puma replaced Adidas and Reebok as gear sponsors for Jamaica in 2002, and according to Rolling, “the financial conditions offered by Puma were far more lucrative for both associations back then” and since have gradually been made better “to mirror the improved performance of the athletics teams”.
Puma’s involvement, Rolling added, was also aimed at the early development level. “[We want to] help the development of athletics at grassroots levels... this notably includes our support for athletics programmes in schools (Calabar, Kingston College, Wolmer's, Jamaica College, Munro, St Jago, Ardenne, and more to come), universities (UWI, Mico), etc...”