Editorial: Horace Burrell needs to shape up
Less than 24 hours before a major encounter in their campaign to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, Jamaica's senior footballers boycotted their training session and were instead locked in a meeting with local football administrators.
Horace Burrell, the president of the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF), emerged from that meeting after 90-plus minutes refusing to answer a reporter's question about why training was cancelled and what the meeting was about. He was flippant and dismissive all at once as he gave irrelevant responses to legitimate questions which were posed to him. Instead of answering the reporter's questions, he wanted to talk about whether fans would fill out the National Stadium for last night's game.
Once again, here is an individual who has been given an awesome responsibility, but who does not understand the meaning of accountability as part of a national compliance regime. Once again, here is an individual behaving as if the Jamaica football team is his private domain. It is quite disrespectful for Burrell to feel that what happens with the national team is a private matter, and that he is not required to give an account to stakeholders, i.e., the people of Jamaica.
In recent times, scandals have rocked FIFA, the world football body that oversees the sport, and have exposed a corrupt culture, specifically relating to the selection of World Cup venues and the election of officers. The scandals brought FIFA, its worldwide confederations, national federations and clubs under the microscope with the result that several football administrators were fired, some suspended, including Burrell, and others have been arrested for a variety of alleged transgressions.
Apparently, Burrell has not learnt anything from that humiliating experience. For if he had, he would have certainly moved by now to establish a vigorous audit and compliance committee within the JFF, and undertake that audited statements are made available for public scrutiny. The clamour for the JFF to open its books has grown louder over the years without an appropriate response from the JFF. Where is the transparency in the way the game is administered in Jamaica? What has Burrell done since his return from suspension to strengthen mechanisms thereby reducing opportunities for corruption within the JFF?
When private individuals take a risk in any type of business venture it is their money which is at stake and they need only account to their principals and shareholders. However, government funding via the Sports Development Foundation goes into the sport, which means that all taxpayers, fans and persons not even remotely interested in football have a vital national interest in what goes on in the sport. At the very least, Burrell should have made a public statement on the matter, so that the paying public, supporters, sponsors and others with vested interest in the sport could get an understanding of what was happening behind closed doors.
We recall that in July the footballers also cancelled training ahead of a CONCACAF Gold Cup game after which they were given certain financial guarantees, including a promise to share the prize money with the coaching staff. For the players to take such drastic action to eke out a financial agreement with management is a clear indication that something is not right in the relationship between the JFF and its players.
Mr Burrell must understand that while winning and great performances will provide thrill to fans and boost national pride, the requirement for transparency will not diminish and the clamour will continue until the JFF lifts the lid of secrecy from its affairs.