Changing room break-in at KO final spurs football officials into action
Kemoi Burke (left), brand and sponsorship manager of Lynk, and Owen Hill, chief executive officer of the Professional Football Jamaica Limited, pose with the winners' trophy during the media launch of the Lynk Cup at Tacbar, Devon House, on Wednesday, April 5, 2023. (Photo: Garfield Robinson)

Owen Hill, the chief executive officer of the Professional Football Jamaica Limited (PFJL), says heightened security measures will be put in place to ensure the safety of players and officials for the remainder of the season.

His comments come in wake of a robbery incident during the Lynk Cup Knock-out final at Sabina Park on Friday when Cavalier footballers and staff returned to their changing room at half-time to discover it ransacked and valuable items stolen.

There was no indication that Cavalier's opponents Portmore United — who won the match 2-0 — were affected.

There have been previous incidents of changing room break-ins at the venue — most famously known for hosting international cricket — as recently as during the last schoolboy football season.

"It's a venue we definitely will be using — and it [changing room break-ins] has happened far too frequently — so there needs to be tighter measures in place. We are very mindful we need to protect players, officials, fans and the sport itself," Hill said in reference to Jamaica Premier League matches slated for the venue, starting with semi-final action on Monday.

"It's very unfortunate; we tried as best as we could to put security measures in place. As it is now, we are having discussions and the police are gathering reports on what happened. Once we get those reports, we can have a review and [put in] corrective measures going forward," the PFJL chief executive noted.

After the match, Cavalier Technical Director Rudolph Speid could not provide details, but said the losses were substantial.

"I don't know, it's great though…everything [including money, cellphones] and car keys," he told the Jamaica Observer.

After trailing 0-1 at the break, Speid admitted that the second half was a psychological grind for his team.

"We are professionals so those things we have to put behind us, but when you have young players it's kind of difficult for that to happen," he explained.

Kemoi Burke, Lynk's brand and sponsorship manager, credited Cavalier for going back out after the interval.

"The information is still coming in, but I must commend the Cavalier team for showing up [for the second half] because they stuck to their task and fulfilled their duty. They fought to the very end and they weren't the victors in terms of winning the match, but based on their commitment, they are very victorious in our eyes," he told the Observer.

The robbery incident aside, Burke said it was a success for his company.

"We are extremely pleased by the support we got from the PFJL, the JFF [Jamaica Football Federation], the teams, the coaches and the fans. We look forward to continuous improvement of the product, and we have got some good reviews so far, but we are not resting because there is always room for improvement."

As winners, Portmore are set to pocket $1.65m, and the Cavalier are to receive $1.45m, while the third-placed Dunbeholden FC and fourth-placed Harbour View FC are to get just over $1m and $800,000, respectively.

Sanjay Myers

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