Hosting World Cup games abroad still an option — JFFSunday, September 26, 2021
The Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) says the hosting of World Cup qualifying games abroad remains a possibility, given the country's current novel coronavirus pandemic protocols which do not allow fans inside venues for sporting events.
Jamaica's Reggae Boyz, in the Concacaf final-stage qualifiers, are last in the eight-team points standing after three games.
Earlier this month they lost 1-2 away to Mexico before succumbing to a 0-3 defeat at the hands of Panama inside an empty National Stadium in Kingston. Their solitary point so far came after a 1-1 outcome in Costa Rica.
The Boyz next outing is against United States in Texas on October 7, followed by a home game against Canada three days later, and their October 13 fixture against Honduras in San Pedro Sula.
While confirming the Canada assignment will be held in Jamaica, whether or not the Government gives approval for fans to attend, JFF General Secretary Dalton Wint said things could be different for home qualifiers slated for next year.
“There is that consideration [to host games abroad]. If things get to the stage where we are having difficulties hosting our games here, that will be our Plan B,” he told the Jamaica Observer.
Aside from the desire to play in front fans with hopes that the support can return the National Stadium to being the fortress it was for the Reggae Boyz during their successful 1998 World Cup qualifying campaign, there is the financial factor.
Though the JFF has various costs, including venue rental and match fees for staff and players, it has no way of getting revenue through the turnstiles because of the restrictions aimed at fighting the spread of novel coronavirus.
It is one of the reasons the federation recently appealed to the Government to permit fully vaccinated spectators to attend home games.
JFF President Michael Ricketts said that up to Friday, the federation had updated its submission to the sport ministry.
“We've written to the minister, trying to get 50 per cent capacity inside the stadium. They asked us to give a more detailed document. We did that and sent that off this [Friday] morning, so we're waiting on [a response from] Minister [Olivia] Grange now,” he said.
The National Stadium's seating capacity is said to be approximately 28,000. Ricketts told the Observer the JFF is “hoping to get anywhere between 12,000 and 14,000 [people] inside the venue”.
He added: “Jamaica is the only country, right now, that doesn't have spectators, with the exception of Mexico, and their scenario was different because they were banned by Fifa.”
The Reggae Boyz's September 2 visit to Mexico City was highlighted by an empty Azteca Stadium because the Mexicans were serving a one-match spectator ban after repeated discriminatory chants by some of its fans in contravention of Fifa rules.
Mexico are top of the Concacaf octagonal qualifying with seven points, ahead of Canada (five points), United States (five), and Panama (five); Costa Rica (two), Honduras (two), El Salvador (two); and Jamaica (one).
The eight teams in the round robin, home-and-away format are vying for three direct places to the Qatar 2022 World Cup. The team that finishes fourth will be involved in an intercontinental play-off for another spot.
— Sanjay Myers