Mon | Aug 21, 2017

Orville Higgins | Burying the Butler-JFF spat

Published:Friday | October 7, 2016 | 10:00 AM
Jamaica's Leon Bailey of Genk celebrates after scoring during the Europa League group stage between Genk and Sassuolo at the Cristal Arena in Genk, Belgium, on September 29.
Burrell
Craig Butler
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A tick under five years ago, December 9, 2011, I wrote a piece in The Gleaner titled 'The Butler-Speid spat'. The article chronicled the background of the stand-off between Craig Butler and one-time KSAFA president Rudolph Speid.

I wrote then: "The long-standing battle started way back in 2007. Butler was then fighting for the right to get Stony Hill involved in KSAFA competitions ... . At that point, one Livingston Payne came into the picture and claimed that he was, indeed, the rightful owner of the Stony Hill franchise ... . Butler went to court after KSAFA advised that both men share joint leadership until the matter was sorted out."

This, then, was the start of the KSAFA- Butler stand-off. We, however, pick up from my five-year-old Gleaner article. "Butler wasn't happy and carried KSAFA to court. As I understand it, the court was sympathetic to Mr Butler's story, felt he had a case, and had set another date for the matter to be settled."

"FIFA had, by now, realised what was going on and had contacted the Jamaica Football Federation to get involved. After the JFF met with KSAFA, the decision was taken that Butler must pay the ultimate price. KSAFA stuck with a FIFA mandate that if you carry an affiliate to court, you shall be banned, a fact that Craig told me he wasn't aware of at the time he took the action. ... With the Stony Hill franchise a sore issue, and with his indefinite ban in place, Craig took his players all over the Corporate Area with what he was now calling the Phoenix All Stars football team. Butler then left for Austria with a mission to find new opportunities to get his boys into professional football. ... All that is great, but KSAFA, while acknowledging Butler's role in promoting these youngsters, is convinced that he just doesn't play by the rules."

So that's the background to the current dispute between Craig Butler and the JFF. While the original battle was with the Stewart Stephenson-led KSAFA, Butler is convinced that the JFF could have done more to settle the row. He is still rankled by what he feels was unfair treatment by both the JFF and KSAFA. Butler may well have a point.

 

CHIP ON HIS SHOULDER

 

His indefinite ban was lifted three years ago, and Butler could well feel that if his suspension could be lifted as arbitrarily as it was, it never had to be administered in the first place. So he is a man who is clearly walking around with a huge chip on his shoulder as it relates to the governing body for football here. Very few would blame him.

A decade or so after the dispute with the JFF and KSAFA, Butler's efforts have produced a gem. Leon Bailey is one of the hottest young ballers in all of Europe, and now, the JFF wants to do everything to get him to play for the Reggae Boyz.

Butler now, though, won't have it. Not that easy. Like Shylock in Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice, he wants his pound of flesh. He realises that he holds the trump card: He is Leon's agent and father, and he is not prepared for the JFF to forget that.

So Butler wants conditions from the JFF if Leon is going to play. He wants to know the JFF's structure. He wants to know formation. He wants to know what their plans are for young players in the future. He has stopped short of asking where they play all their games and what number Leon will wear! Butler is now flexing his muscles at the JFF.

It's understandable. Many of us, given the same situation, would probably react similarly. It's human nature for us to want to lash out at those who have hurt us and caused us harm.

Butler insists that he must be present to negotiate the terms on which Bailey could play for Jamaica, but the JFF might not be willing to grant him that access. Something has to give.

I would think that Burrell and the JFF should meet him halfway. Not because of his unusual and, in my opinion, unfair requests, but to soothe a man who felt he was clearly wronged. As I wrote in my article five years ago, "KSAFA (make that JFF now) should try to work with this man rather than against him."

- Orville Higgins is a sportscaster and talk-show host at KLAS ESPN Sports FM. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.