Get your act together, PFOJ!
Odean Pennycooke (right) of Tivoli Gardens heads the ball under pressure from Andre Clennon of Humble Lions during the Jamaica Premier League match at JFF-University of the West Indies Captain Horace Burrell Centre of Excellence on Sunday. (Photo: Garfield Robinson)
The Sporting Edge

The Jamaica Premier League is in serious jeopardy of becoming a glorified corner league if the organisers, Professional Football of Jamaica Limited (PFOJ), doesn't get their act together.

A week after a very quiet start to the competition that even members of the national media were not aware of, they hosted a press conference which basically said nothing. There was very little, if any, new information and questions went unanswered.

Quite a few liberties were allowed during the previous season, the first that the PFOJ was in charge of the league, but given the situation, trying to restart the sport in the middle of a pandemic, some latitudes were allowed.

One of the latitudes allowed was the playing all games on the artificial turf at The University of the West Indies/Jamaica Football Federation/Captain Horace Burrell Centre of Excellence field in St Andrew.

The original plans were for games to be played on 'real' grass at the Stadium East field and at Sabina Park but somewhere along the way those plans got shelved.

Even then, Wally Downes, coach of the St Ann-based club Mt Pleasant Football Academy, had issues with his team having to travel to Kingston for games, some starting at 10:00 am, due to the COVID-19 reconstructions and curfews, at the time.

Then, three of the 11 clubs were from outside of Kingston, with two from Clarendon in addition to Mt Pleasant, but given what was known about COVID-19 and the need to return to some semblance of normalcy, most of us overlooked the inconveniences.

A year later however, with a fourth team—Montego Bay United— from outside of the Corporate Area, and after more talks about playing games at additional venues, it is now being whispered that the entire season could once again be played in Kingston.

That is unacceptable, especially after the Inter-secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA) organisers of high school sports managed to get almost 20 venues cleared for competition.

If ISSA can get that many, then it makes sense that PFOJ can get more than just one venue approved, that is, if they really are serious about moving the game outside of the Corporate Area.

It should be noted that venues such as Drax Hall, Wespow Park and the Montego Bay Sports Complex were all approved by the Government for schoolboy football.

Somehow, I don't get the feeling they have any desire to play games outside of Kingston, the JPL is being run by Kingston people with a Kingston-centric mindset that Kingston is Jamaica.

I am willing to bet that none of the eight Kingston or St Catherine-based clubs would agree to play all their games at Drax Hall or in Montego Bay and we would hear every argument why that was untenable, most of them from PFOJ themselves.

Even if the 'country teams' are required to play half of their games in Kingston, it would be too much and it would give the Kingston teams too much of an 'unfair' advantage.

The PFOJ has talked a lot about making the league attractive and professional but it must start on the field and playing a large percentage of the games at one venue is nothing that would 'pass muster' anywhere in the world where 'sensible' football is being played.

With Paul Reid

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