Jamaica Premier League gets green light for resumption from GovernmentThursday, May 06, 2021
By Dwayne Richards
Local football fans will soon be able to enjoy the thrill of competition, as approval has been given for the resumption of Premier League football. The announcement was made by Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Desmond McKenzie by way of a press release yesterday afternoon.
With anxiety overtaking local football stakeholders following the withdrawal of Portmore United FC and Waterhouse FC from a Concacaf competition recently, it was felt by many that the 2020-2021 season would come to nought.
However, after months of deliberations, players, administrators and fans alike can now celebrate the imminent return of the sport to local shores.
Minister McKenzie in his release stated that the decision was taken after a meeting between high-level decision-makers and members of the sport's local governing body, the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF).
“This decision came at the end of a meeting I chaired today involving representatives of the ministries of Health and Wellness, and Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, the Premier League Clubs Association, the Jamaica Football Federation, the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management and the Social Development Commission,” the minister noted.
From the release it can be concluded that the JFF and the Professional Football Jamaica Limited (PFJL) have now met all the protocols required by the various ministries to safely stage competitive football.
“We have been meeting for some time, to ensure that all possible mechanisms concerning the efficient prevention and management of COVID-19 are applied to all aspects of club competition, including the health and safety of players, referees and club workers and administrators.
“Further details regarding the starting times and the conditions under which the competitions will be held will be disclosed at a later date,” the release stated.
The reduction in the number of COVID-19 cases and more importantly, the positivity rate, has played a major part in the decision made by the Government.
“Even as the management of COVID-19 remains paramount, the Government is keen for sport to resume in a phased, orderly manner, consistent with the continued reduction in the country's positivity rate.
“The impact of sport on social well-being and social development is well recognised, and the Government will support all efforts to promote the enjoyment of sport in the safest way possible,” the release also added.
The news was met with delight by JFF president Michael Ricketts and the Professional Football Jamaica Limited.
“This is very positive news for the stakeholders of football,” said Ricketts. “Of course my first thoughts are with our players and coaches who now will have opportunities open to them to resume the trade that they so love. I also want to commend and thank the partners who have invested for their patience and loyalty to the sport. Finally, thanks to the ministries and state agencies for the work done to get us here. While I am sure the players are overjoyed with the news, I implore them to be constantly mindful of the current local health conditions and act responsibly. While we play, let's play our part in containing this pandemic. Let the games begin,” he concluded.
Approval was given for the format that allows the clubs to train at their home grounds with the official matches to be held at central venues. Most recently, the PFJL had developed protocols for the official matches to be held in a controlled environment based on the significant upsurge in the number of COVID-19 cases in Jamaica starting in February. However, with the success of the most recent measures that have cut back the number of new cases, all parties were satisfied that the previous model would align with the current measures. There is also greater confidence with the start of national vaccination efforts.
It is now the work of the JFF to finalise the design of the format for the official matches following the delay in receiving approval and the resulting shortened season. The JFF will also have to integrate the Premier League matches with those on the national and regional calendars as both the Gold Cup and World Cup Qualifiers are being held in the coming months.
Details of the start, duration and league format will be shared in the coming days.
The Jamaica Premier League will be held without spectators in order to contribute to the nation's efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19. However, fans will be able to enjoy the matches as the PFJL has secured a broadcast partner for the Caribbean who will be responsible for identifying television broadcasters for Jamaica and the region.
Acting general manager of the PFJL Arlene Martin was very pleased with the go-ahead. “The PFJL appreciates the Government's recognition of the importance of the resumption of professional football, as well as the confidence in the approved protocols and the ability to comply with these measures. The PFJL has worked with our national and regional stakeholders to develop thorough protocols that we are confident will support and even enhance the Government's efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. We look forward to an exciting season with the clubs and our commercial partners and to delivering quality football to our fans.”
The release also stated that applications from other sporting associations are now being considered for resumption.
“The Government is actively considering applications from a range of sporting associations,” it stated.
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