Part One — THE much heralded 'golden era' of Jamaica's football coincided with the arrival of the Brazilian Rene Simoes between October 1994 and qualifying for the 1998 FIFA World Cup Finals in France for our first and only appearance.
The four-year plan was formulated under the Captain Horace Burrell-led Jamaica Football Federation (JFF), with Simoes in mind, by capitalising on the availability of the already established, rich body of naturally talented Jamaican players, coaches and administrators, who resided here and were recently successful in dominating the Caribbean Football Union (CFU), being the 1991 champions, second in 1992 and 1993, and joint third with Costa Rica in the 1993 CONCACAF Gold Cup. JFF Presidents Tony James (1985-92) and Heron Dale (1992-94) were respectively at the helm.
In the Caribbean, when Jamaica lost 2-3 to the Cayman Islands and were eliminated from the 1994 CFU preliminary stage, it was deemed 'disastrous'. Caribbean investors created a franchised-based Caribbean Major League Football (CMLF), which comprised of national teams disguised as clubs, awarding three franchises to Jamaica -- The Tony James-led Cornwall County Lions with Theodore Whitmore, Paul 'Tegat' Davis, Durrant 'Tatty' Brown from the west; Kingston Lions, led by Horace Reid, coach Bradley Stewart and marquee player Walter Boyd; Harbour View FC were the only genuine club and included players like the late Barrington 'Cobra' Gaynor, Andrew 'Bowa' Hines, Onandi Lowe, and invitee Anthony 'Baddas' Corbett.
On Sunday, May 22, 1994 the newly constructed Harbour View Football Club Stadium was opened to a bumper crowd, as then CFU President Austin 'Jack' Warner and then JFF treasurer, Captain Burrell acting as match commissioner, were in attendance. HVFC held Cornwall County Lions to a 2-2 draw.
After Jamaica were eliminated in the second round of the World Cup Qualifiers 1990 and again in 1994, a conscious effort was designed to merge the professional experiences, exposure and attitudes, finally selecting three British-based Jamaicans to the squad.
Success followed on November 16, 1997 and Simoes declared that the local premier league must eventually become more professional to build a solid base for developing international football standards, structures and attitudes by playing more intense high-pressure games on a consistent basis.
Most premier league clubs bonded to present their views and lobby as an effective unified group, but soon were separated by individual visions.
In the post-World Cup era, Simoes introduced a new styled league 12-club format, with three rounds of games on a round-robin basis of each club playing each other, then the top two clubs playing in three End-of-Round Finals to be awarded extra points, trophies and cash prizes, plus an automatic place in the semi-finals of four top clubs on points accumulated over the three rounds, with the two winners engaging in a two-way final to get an eventual champion.
A series of changes to reduce it to only two End-of-Round Finals, then remove the added points to these finalists, then remove automatic qualification to the top four, eventually the semi-finals and finals disappeared as the 2004-05 Wray and Nephew branding contract ended, a new agreement was in staging the 2005-06 Wray & Nephew pure league format and exploiting the value of rights fees for front of jersey logo, sleeves, back and shorts.
Cynics poured 'cold water' on the idea of no semi-finals and final, saying the league would not be exciting, there would be runaway winners, no sponsors, no teams would be interested and no fans would attend the games.
Editor's note: Clyde Jureidini is a football analyst, general manager of the Harbour View Football Club, and company secretary of the Premier League Club Association.