Ricketts: 'We must remember that life is more important than sport'

Thursday, March 26, 2020

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Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) President Michael Ricketts has managed, in the worst of times, to hope for the best.

He sought to remind all that the preservation of life “is more importantant than sports” as the world grapples with the deadly coronavirus.

The local football boss told the Jamaica Observer recently that in the face of a global health crisis he is trying to remain optimistic even as the novel coronavirus has forced a shutdown of global sport.

With Jamaica confirming its own cases of COVID-19 (25) and with one death reported so far, the country's sporting machinery has come to a screeching halt.

Still, Ricketts says he is hoping that the Red Stripe Premier League (RSPL), Jamaica's marquee competition, will be able to resume and even completed, a possibility that will be totally contingent on whether the country is able to bring the deadly virus under control and life returns to some semblance of normality.

“When it comes to the RSPL, we should be meeting with the PLCA [Premier League Clubs Association] later this week to discuss the league…we will be looking at all the possibilities, for example, if and when we get to restart, and to see what kind of contingencies there are in addressing the realities posed by the fluid situation with this virus. So yes, we are looking at possible restart and completion of the league.

“In the same breath, there could be the possibility that we may have to scrap the remainder of the season, but of course, that as a decision, would be a last resort by stakeholders,” Ricketts noted.

Speaking from his Clarendon home, the JFF head says he sympathises with clubs, players, sponsors, and all other categories of the game's stakeholders, as the league had approached its business end before COVID-19's landing.

“I know it's also difficult for clubs at this time as they have to be maintaining players and staff. Also, I can imagine that sponsors will be a bit anxious right now, so we share those concerns as we look to work through this crisis,” Ricketts said.

He said while there is “partial” shutdown, there is an effort to keep the business of football going.

“We are partially closed down, with essentially everybody working from home as we have to be working with Government's directives and that of the health authorities…also, as you know, we have to obey the directives of the parent bodies of football,” Ricketts stated.

In response to the coronavirus outbreak across its governing span of North America, Central America, and the Caribbean, Concacaf had ordered all tournaments and other football-related activities suspended for 30 days in the first instance.

As it relates to the National programme, Ricketts said the JFF has been in touch with players and coaches, with the hope that they keep the upcoming World Cup qualifiers a focus behind that of keeping themselves safe at this time of crisis.

“When it comes to the national programme, we try to stay in touch with players and coaches, because in all of this, we still have World Cup qualifiers coming up in August, and we want to be at a good place when these games start, even though our programmes have been affected by the coronavirus.

“There is no doubt that this outbreak has set us back a lot, as it has every sport and every fabric of society. Right now the health and well-being of our players, staff, referees, coaches, sponsors, and the wider Jamaica, should be the priority.

“We must remember that life is more important than sport, therefore, we have to prioritise our resources and focus in that order. I wish everybody the best and we are hopeful that as a sport and country, we will rise from this crisis stronger than before,” Ricketts ended.

Meanwhile Concacaf President Victor Montagliani said this is the time to think about the welfare of humanity and not football.

“There is not much more that I can really say as we have all spoken on it [coronavirus and football shutdown]. Clearly, we have all shut down our competitions and can only add that I hope everyone is following the hygiene protocols, like washing of the hands, keeping the social distances.

“As far as I am concerned, now is the time when we have to be thinking about humanity and our families, and not about football. We will get through this,” he told the Observer recently.