JFF Western Confed members rue failed attempt to start second-tier pro footballThursday, July 02, 2020
BY PAUL A REID
MONTEGO BAY, St James - The four members of the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) Western Confederation have expressed disappointment that the second tier of professional club football will not be implemented for the start of the next season.
The Football Associations from St James, Trelawny, Westmoreland and Hanover had supported the initiative that was tabled by the JFF, but a split vote at a recent meeting meant the new system would be delayed by at least one season.
Despite all four western parishes voting along with the JFF, the vote to implement the second tier of professional football ended in an eight-all tie, which meant it will not be in place at the start of the 20-21 season, should there be one.
Gregory Daley, president of the St James FA and the chairman of the JFF Competitions Committee, tempered his optimism for the next season going ahead as he told the Jamaica Observer West that “no, we are not even sure if any football will be played this season,” and suggested “basically the time can be used to ensure everything is in place for the implementation [for the season].”
The system will call for a second level of professional football with clubs from all the parish associations taking part with the top teams earning promotion to the Premier League, the next season.
The teams at the bottom of the Premier League points standing would head the other direction, to the second- tier league.
Meanwhile, the other western parish presidents have come out swinging at the rejection of the implementation of the second-tier league.
“What we as administrators failed to do is to make tough decisions that would hasten the development of the game,” said Marlene Brown, president of the Trelawny FA.
Everton Tomlinson of the Westmoreland FA said he was disappointed that “we have not forced the hands of the parish associations which I think have the respective opportunity to change the nature of football in Jamaica.”
Hanover FA's Sheridan Samuels told the Observer West that “if we intend to develop the country's football, we need to do it now.”
All four agreed that the failure to improve the football at the club level could affect the game at all levels as well as the national teams.
“Jamaica suffers in moving football to the next level because we invest a lot in amateur football. There are only 12 professional clubs in Jamaica which participate in the Premier League and that means the four national men's teams— the senior team, the Under-23, Under-20 and Under -17, only have a core of 360 players that are exposed to professional football at our level to look at consistently,” Daley argued.
And pointing out that there are too many older players participating in the Premier League, Daley said the gap between “Super League amateur players and the Premier League is too wide.” He noted, however, that Mt Pleasant FA of St Ann, had a professional set-up even before they got to the Premier League.
Brown, who is one of two females at the head of parish associations, said there were affiliates of the Trelawny FA who were concerned about the start of the new system this year, and had asked about “resources to take care of the financial responsibilities”.
She stressed, however, that the majority voted for the acceptance.
She noted, too, that there are clubs in Trelawny who would not be able to qualify for the new system, given they lacked a number of stipulations such as “proper structures, management personnel responsibility, proper planning and youth development.”
The response in Trelawny to the result of the vote, she said, was split, adding that she was disappointed.
“I think sometimes we have to do what is necessary to accomplish what needs to be accomplished. For example, look at where our football is at this time after so many successes, and we as administrators can't build on those successes for our nation's football. We have to start somewhere, for example, our top competition is a professional premier league and the next level is amateur, there's too much of a huge gap in between, and we must correct same and the implementation of a tier- two competition would be a start,” she argued.
A strident Brown said the failure to implement the two-tier system will harm the development of football.
“What we as administrators failed to do is make tough decisions, it may be political, but for me, once it is going to enhance the programme I will take that risk [as] at the end of the day it is football that matters. The technical department of the JFF has done an assessment and recommend the overall realistic changes for our football, and we voted against it. We vote against development, we vote against organisational structures, we vote against the success the clubs and parishes would reap in the future,” said Brown, adding that “we must be prepared for changes in the football for it to grow.”
Brown added that parish presidents must “be the football leaders, set the criteria for ourselves and affiliates, and we must at all times educate ourselves and the affiliates.”
Like in Trelawny, Tomlinson said not every affiliate in Westmoreland voted for the change, but the majority carried, as he blasted the present system saying, “as a country we have been playing a Premier League for more than 50 years and it still consists of majority teams from Kingston and St Andrew.”
He argued that the second-tier competition would give teams from more parish associations a chance to play in a professional league.
“I think that would be an ideal opportunity for us to have a national football competition which eventually in a year or two would serve a real purpose of a professional league,” said Tomlinson.
“That we have not forced the hands of the parish associations, which I think have the respective opportunity to change the nature of football in Jamaica, to garner financial support through private sector and the government, like the Institute of Sports and the SDF [Sports Development Foundation], to force them to at least assist parish associations to have one proper facility in each parish to accommodate the second- tier competition, is a disappointment.”
The competition, Tomlinson said, would have seen the “start of a proper professional programme where a club could be well-structured, assisted by a parish association who would have the responsibility to be fully in charge of youth competition from the age of 15 down. These players would filter through the school system into the club system which would be pro, major league and any other league that is being run in the parish to assist that professional club who would vie to stay in the competition over the years, failing to do so, then you would have another club from a respective parish. It would be more competitive, it would be more financially rewarding and it would be better for the national programme, and it would be better for all players and stakeholders in Jamaica to make it on the international scene.”
The benefits of a second professional league, Tomlinson further argued, would encompass the entire gamut, from the parish to the national teams.
“There would be at least one properly structured club in each parish and also it would force the other clubs to be more structured, more readily prepared, and it would also help to eliminate some of the not so properly structured clubs from the system,” he claimed.
“Hence, it would mean better players would be in more structured systems rather than having them spread all across the parishes participating in all these leagues, it would bring them together...better administrators would be involved.”
On the other hand, Tomlinson argued that Jamaica's football product would be further harmed “if we continue on the path we are presently on as what we have now is that we have a lot of these so-called clubs playing in the Super League and major leagues, they are not properly coached, no proper structure or facility.”
To continue on that path, Tomlinson stressed, “we would be wasting the little resources that we have, and we would not be able to compete with other more developed countries.
“ I think if we understand how to invest and spend the little that we have more wisely in a more confined way with a real purpose of restructuring, then I think football will be better in a few years, not immediately, but the process would have started in the right and proper way,” he reasoned.
Samuels argued that the time to make the move to develop the country's football is now, not next year.
“If we intend to develop the country's football we need to do it now. This will give the lesser parishes the opportunity to compete at a higher level which means players will be exposed to more competitive football at the national level,” he said.
“Also, clubs will be exposed to proper management structure and will now view the sport from a business perspective. Football will now be seen and viewed with a level of seriousness, which will allow us to be more competitive and organised on the world stage.”
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