Militant Reggae Boyz demand better treatment from JFF
Jamaica's Reggae Boyz take part in a set-piece drill during a training session at the Audi Field in Washington DC yesterday. (Photo: Sean Williams)

WASHINGTON, DC, United States — Jamaica's Reggae Boyz were restive on Tuesday evening, one day before they engage the USA here in a crucial friendly international.

That game is scheduled for Audi Field, with kick-off set for 7:00 pm (6:00 pm Jamaica time).

The players, through main spokesman Kemar Lawrence, appeared militant in taking the governing Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) to task as they vented their frustrations with what they deemed “unsatisfactory terms and conditions, remuneration” and a wide range of other matters as they head into the Concacaf Gold Cup.

“After this game (against the USA) we are supposed to go to a camp in Jamaica, and as far as I know, there is no suitably confirmed accommodation for any player… the only thing we know is that we are supposed to stay at the players' house, and I wouldn't encourage no overseas-based player or any local-based for that matter to stay at the house because we are expected to be put in the best situation possible so we can perform at our best,” said Lawrence, a left-sided player who plies his trade for the New York Red Bulls.

“Can you tell me that someone expects Michael Hector and Damion Lowe who are six-foot-two and six-foot-three to sleep on a bed that's inadequate,” he added.

The team is expected to embark on a camp in Jamaica soon in preparation for their opening Group C match of the Concacaf Gold Cup in Kingston on June 17.

Lawrence, a veteran of the team, says the perennial cry for proper compensation remains a hot topic as both parties have failed to reach an agreement on wages.

“There is also an issue with payment… they (JFF officials) sent us a contract and we sent it back (with a new figure) and they sent us an email to say they can't meet our demands and that we are unrealistic,” said Lawrence, the former Harbour View standout.

According to Lawrence, the players felt disrespected by the JFF's alleged lack of follow-up in the negotiation process.

“If we are negotiating, you expect the other party to come back with a new figure, higher or lower, and that would mean the conversation continues and that would show that you still want to negotiate, so by replying that way, it's obvious you don't want to talk to us,” he told OBSERVER ONLINE on Tuesday night.

“We have to be open to negotiations because that's what the aim is, we are here to negotiate for something that is reasonable to every player… we just hope that they will reply and talk to us in a better manner than how they talked with us before,” Lawrence added.

The 26-year-old says the last thing the players want is an ugly outcome to the situation, therefore they are hopeful their concerns will be addressed, or even a commitment to do so.

“What I want to know is where does this leave us as players? That just leads us down one road, and when we go down that road and decide not to put on our shoes and step on the field, you hear that the players are this and the players are that.

“What we are doing now is just playing and collecting petty cash, and the cycle will just go on and on, and it is not the first time, or the second time or the third time we have come to this,” noted Lawrence.

He said the fact that no top-tier member of the executive is in Washington DC with the team is indicative and symptomatic of a leadership that “has lost touch” with its players.

“This is the men's national senior team, and who have you seen here with us as a top official of the JFF – no president, no vice-president and no general secretary, and where else in international football you have ever seen this as someone is always there to represent irrespective of what's going on.

“There are many issues and we are just trying to keep it together as a team and we are not going to achieve what we need to until we fix them.

“I want the team to be put in the best possible position to succeed, and I want the team to win, and the only way we are going to win is if our preparation is good… the coaches are trying their best to do the best they can with the little they have and it's not easy,” Lawrence reasoned.

JFF president Michael Ricketts and general secretary Dalton Wint are said to be in France to attend the Fifa Congress and the Fifa Women's World Cup and could not be reached for a comment on Tuesday night.

But head of delegation Patrick Malcolm, who is in Washington with team, told OBSERVER ONLINE that the players had sought audience with him, but he could not say what the issues were.

 “I am unsure and unaware (of any demands) except that (team captain) Andre Blake said he wanted to meet with me earlier and I have been trying to meet with him for the last five hours or so… and then Kemar Lawrence came to my room and made the point that he had some concerns and the team had some concerns, so I said if he has concerns, let me hear them… so I am waiting to address the players' concerns as best as possible,” he said at the Westin Crystal City, the team's base.

Malcolm said he has reached out to Ricketts and Wint to notify them that the players appeared to have concerns that ultimately will require their intervention.

“I spoke with general secretary Wint yesterday (Monday) and I am in touch with the president, so I intend to meet with the players and their representatives shortly,” he stated.

At the time of posting, the players were still undecided on their next move, but will be guided by the nature of the response from the JFF's top-brass headed by president Ricketts.

“We still have not decided what we are going to do as we are still talking as a group whether we are going to email them (JFF hierarchy) again with a lower figure or with what we have discussed or hear if they get back to us, because the last email from them was like 'conversation over, take it or leave it',” Lawrence stated.

In the past, the Boyz and the federation have crossed swords over various issues, which in a number of situations the players have threatened to not lace up their boots for a game or training session in protest.

When asked if strike action is an option in the ongoing stand-off, Lawrence said: “We are here to play and hopefully everything goes well and we will be going on the pitch.”

Sean Williams

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