Orville Higgins | Was Captain, JFF fouled by Danny Beckford?
With all the bashing it has received lately, this is one fight the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) didn't need. The JFF board has now locked horns with Danny Beckford, the outspoken president of the St Ann Football Association.
Danny has been suspended from all football-related activities for six months for refusing to apologise for that no-holds-barred letter he wrote to Captain Horace Burrell and copied to the board a few weeks ago. This isn't the end of the matter.
It's unlike Danny Beckford to take this lying down, and one suspects that Captain Burrell and his board will dig in their heels and do whatever they can to keep Danny away from the inner sanctums of the JFF hierarchy for the prescribed period.
Make no bones about it: It can't be easy for Burrell and his board to feel comfortable sitting with Danny in a board meeting after that adversarial letter that found its way into the pages of The Gleaner on October 24.
The letter was scathing against Burrell and the general secretary: "The first move is for you, as president and your general secretary, to leave the football administration ASAP so that the proper way for administering our football can now move properly apace ... ."
DIVIDE AND RULE
The rest of the board did not escape Danny's wrath. He felt the board members were there mainly to rubber-stamp Burrell's decisions and were complicit in his divide-and-rule tactics.
These are strong words, offensive words, even, and it's difficult to see how Danny and the rest of the board can sit cordially around a table to discuss anything. Were I a member of the board, I couldn't see how I could have a professional relationship with someone who thinks so little of me.
If I were to have advised the JFF, I would have told them not to go this route. I would have sent out a letter to the press, responding to every accusation made by Beckford. I would also question the fact that Danny had continued to allow the St Ann Football Association to be sponsored by the very man who he now felt was so bad for football. The Captain's Bakery was sponsoring the St Ann FA for a long time, up to about two years ago. The assumption must be that for all those years, Danny was satisfied enough with the Captain to continue accepting his money. If I were the president of the JFF, I would ask if there isn't some strange coincidence that Danny's caustic letter came only after the Captain had ceased sponsorship to the St Ann Football Association.
Another issue that cannot be overlooked is the fact that the Phoenix Football Club, owned by Craig Butler, is now a major sponsor to the St Ann FA. The JFF should have taken the opportunity to speculate publicly whether Craig, who is a known anti-Burrell man in recent times, had any influence on Danny's actions. The JFF has a lot of reasons to wonder about the sincerity and credibility about Danny's letter and should have fought the battle along those lines.
Despite this, the board may have just overstepped its boundaries. I am not convinced that Danny Beckford should have been suspended, given the facts before us. The letter was vitriolic, even rude, but it was supposed to be a private letter to the president and his board. I am not sure what FIFA or JFF statute prevents a man from writing a private letter to his colleagues.
Danny told me personally that he has asked the JFF to provide him with the statutes or by-laws he has broken. Up to the time of his suspension, he said he had not received any point-by-point explanation.
NO CASE AGAINST BECKFORD
I myself have spoken to high-ranking board members, and based on what was quoted to me, I am not convinced that there is an iron-clad case against Danny Beckford.
There is talk from the JFF that he has brought the JFF into disrepute. That, however, is debatable. It cannot be proven that Danny had anything to do with the letter being leaked to The Gleaner. Unless they have concrete evidence that he did, I don't see how those charges can stick.
Danny, of course, might appeal, and where that will go is anybody's guess. Who will he appeal to if, in fact, he does? What is the likelihood that any such body will overturn what the board has done?
This latest brouhaha is not making Danny look bad at all. Public sentiment is on his side. Captain Burrell has taken a lot of flak in recent times. This won't help.
The one thing in Burrell's favour is that it is clear that it is his entire board who is in on this, as opposed to him only.
- Orville Higgins is a sportscaster and talk-show host on KLAS ESPN Sports FM. Email feedback to email@example.com.