An argument for footballSaturday, March 06, 2021
Jamaican sports lovers have good reason to smile after last weekend's track and field meets across the country.
Indications so far suggest that most aspects went well — to such an extent that despite the continuing surge in COVID-19 cases and a tightening of Government's disaster risk management orders, several athletic meets are again approved for this weekend.
Organised by the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA), the meets form part of preparation and qualification opportunities for athletes aspiring to higher competition later this year, including national trials and the very pinnacle — the Tokyo Olympics in mid-year.
We note a cautionary word from JAAA head Mr Garth Gayle that, while he was mostly pleased about last weekend's events, there needed to be greater attention to antivirus protocols.
Said Mr Gayle: “We saw at hletes celebrating with each other after races and we can't have that...coaches must remind the athletes about the rules under which the meets are being held — after competing they must leave the competition area immediately without celebrating with each other and hugging.”
Restraint is never easy for the very young, especially when the moment begs for celebration.
But all must recognise that behaviour will largely dictate future competition at the local level, including the much anticipated Boys' and Girls' championships.
Of course, in the context of the novel coronavirus pandemic, a return to competition is much easier for disciplines like track and field which involves non-contact activity.
It's different for contact sports such as football, easily Jamaica's most popular team sport.
Because of community spread of the virus, the Jamaican Government has been hesitant despite intense lobbying from the football fraternity.
Mr Chris Williams, chairman of Professional Football Jamaica Limited (PFJL), which runs the Jamaica Premier League competition — on hold since last year — insists that his team has done its “research” and fine-tuned plans for a safe return to what he calls the “business” of football.
Mr Williams claims there is overwhelming proven examples of high-level organised football being safely played elsewhere “outside of [expensive] bubbles with the protocols of frequent testing...social distancing and mask-wearing [off-field]...”
Importantly, Mr Williams boasts that, despite the long pause for football and the continuing threat of the virus, the PFJL has been able to gather $200 million in sponsorship from corporate Jamaica. Business houses are attracted by the popularity of football and the rich promise of branded exposure on television and through creative use of rapidly emerging communication technologies.
“You don't have to go on a bus...and take two hours out of your day to get to a [Premier League football] game...You can pick it up live, or you can pick it up on YouTube later, or you can pick it up on a channel or an app and so on. You have to make products easily accessible...” says Mr Williams.
He believes football should be treated by Government just like any other “business” which follows strict protocols, while creating employment and channelling money through the economy.
When all is said and done, this may be the strongest argument to get local Premier League football over the line.
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