March 23 D-Day for Jamaica Premier League, says WilliamsFriday, March 05, 2021
BY DWAYNE RICHARDS
After more than four months of delays, a date has finally been set for when a decision has to be made about the playing of the 2020-2021 season of the Jamaica Premier League (JPL).
Originally slated to begin in October of 2020, with an alternative date of December 2020, the JPL has been left in limbo as the Government has failed to give the go ahead for the resumption of the sport.
The very important Concacaf Gold Cup will be played this summer and qualification for the Fifa World Cup 2022 begins in September, which means that Jamaica's football is way behind on a global level.
The Professional Football Jamaica Limited (PFJL), the company responsible for the running of Jamaica's Premier League, has made yet another appeal for the resumption of the sport.
Speaking on television earlier this week, chairman of the PFJL Chris Williams said that his team has researched how football can be run at little or no risk to the players, other persons involved and the community at large.
“We have the research. This is not me just making up something. We have the international research and the papers that have been put out as well. We have live examples from abroad from around the world of leagues that are being executed outside of bubbles with the protocols of frequent testing and ensuring that social distancing and mask wearing is executed; on game days you bring the exposure down to virtually zero. It's been studied, it's not something that I made up,” Williams stated.
“The contact period of the 22 players on the field at any point in time is less than 10 seconds and it is outdoors in warm temperatures. I am in finance, so I had to get the research papers and the research papers are there and it's been studied and it has been executed around the world and they now have the statistics that show that the leagues have not driven up community spread outside of bubbles,” he continued.
While “bubbles” are the ideal, Williams insisted that football can still be played in a safe manner, with the necessary protocols in place.
“Bubbles are the perfect scenario, but outside of bubbles with regular testing and with the protocols in place on game day to ensure that you operate in a sanitised venue and everybody except the players on the pitch and the referees…is in a mask and is socially distant. It is a big two acres football field and 100 people inside of the stadiums. Honestly, we could have been playing ball a long time ago,”he noted.
Williams understands the fears of the Government at this time and is willing to exercise patience, up to a point.
“What the argument is, the concern is around training. The testing and the protocol management won't be as stringent. That is the concern. We don't agree, but we understand. Obviously right now it is difficult to have a conversation. Right now, everything is just so heightened so it's difficult to have a conversation.
“The training is what they (the Government) are nervous about and we understand, but we have been making good progress and up to the time of the spike we have been making good progress. We had a board meeting and coming out of that board meeting we are saying we are standing with the Government on the position. We will work with them until March 23rd as the position now based on where the country is at.”
“So, we are saying we don't agree (with) how they have handled the situation up to now…we think we could have been playing ball from October, but it is what it is, water under the bridge. Where this country is at right now, we are saying we are standing with the Government and we will work with them until March 23rd and we will do everything in our power to get our communities to follow protocols to bring the cases down. We are hoping that they will make a decision at that time and give us the go-ahead,” Williams said.
A significant amount of money has been secured to run the JPL that will send cash into the struggling Jamaican economy and benefit thousands of people, Williams reasoned.
“We have to make a decision. That has significant implications for national teams, it has significant implications for economics because we have raised close to $200 million, monies that can go into pockets of the clubs and therefore the players and the staff and so on and help the vulnerable communities and it has significant social implications because of the impact of football on the psyche of the country,” he stated.
Williams questioned why the business of football was being singled out when others were allowed to continue.
“This is a big business and other businesses have been allowed to operate and our business can't operate. Why are we being singled out and other businesses aren't testing their customers and their staff and we are prepared to test?
“We are not taking any customers. We are locking the business from customers and we are prepared to test our staff every week at our own expense. So, I am saying how we get treat so rough. [Is it] just because we name sports? It's a big business. We could be listed on the stock exchange,” he charged.
Williams, however, insisted that the PFJL are in full support of the Government's desire for Jamaican's to follow the protocols to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
“We at the PFJL, are working with the Government…we are going to throw everything we have into the ring to help you to get the message out to Jamaicans, please if you love football and you want to see local football back on the pitch wear your mask, sanitise and social distance and then March 23rd we will make our decision,” he said.
The PFJL head says that they are willing to find a solution to any problem the Government has in order to get football to resume.
“We have indicated and we will continue to indicate to them that we can train in groups of 10 and then the practice matches we would execute in the same way that we execute the games. Whatever the concern is, we will find a solution for it,” said Williams, a noted financial executive.
The Prime Minister Andrew Holness is expected to come back to the country on March 22 after the latest round of measures designed to limit the spread of COVID-19 have expired.
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