Orville Higgins | Burrell’s big dilemma
Jamaica's football could be heading for a crisis decision of monumental proportions.
At the moment, it could be called Craig Butler versus the Jamaica Football Federation. Butler's role in the meteoric rise of Leon Bailey, and his ability to get youngsters playing in Europe, have made him a powerful stakeholder in Jamaica's football. He himself has said that he has more than a dozen youngsters playing in Malta and other places in Europe.
He walked into the studios of KLAS Radio one day last week accompanied by Jevaughn Atkinson, Demar Ford and Martin Davis, easily three of our best young talents and all of them now a part of his Phoenix club. It isn't rocket science to figure out that more and more of the island's best youngsters may very well be drawn to Butler and his programme.
It's every schoolboy footballer's dream to get a professional contract overseas, and Butler seems to have the contacts and the know-how to give them the best chance. It's not inconceivable that many of the top young footballers in Jamaica in the next few years may opt to join the Phoenix programme. Therein lies the dilemma.
Craig Butler has had his issues with both KSAFA and with the JFF. He is still irked by the ban imposed by KSAFA and he isn't impressed with the JFF's handling of the national football.
The JFF, at the moment, wants Leon Bailey to be part of the national squad. Craig, as his father and agent, is not budging. He won't allow Bailey and any of his other Phoenix players to play for the Reggae Boyz until certain conditions are met. Initially, he was insisting that the JFF apologise for not picking his two sons in age-group football. That clearly was never going to happen. Captain Burrell was never ever going to do that, and there appeared to be uneasy tension between the two.
I was the one who was very instrumental in getting the two to sit and talk late last week. I called up both individually and managed to convince them that it would be in both their best interest to sit and meet.
In truth, the meeting wasn't difficult to arrange. Both men wanted to talk to each other. Both had their own personal agendas. Captain wanted Bailey to play, and Butler wanted to have some understanding of Jamaica's systems and some control over it, but none was prepared to be appearing to bow.
Once I got them to overlook their own pride and egos, the meeting got the green light. It was cordial. It took the meeting to make them realise that they both never had any real reason to be on bad terms.
The meeting didn't produce any clear decisions on the way forward. It wasn't exactly clear what Craig wanted, and the two were supposed to be meeting a second time, possibly with coach Theodore Whitmore involved as well.
Then Craig Butler dropped a bombshell on my show on Tuesday. He is no longer interested in an apology. He now wants to be the director of Jamaica's football. He wants to be the man pulling the strings.
When I pointed out to him that there is already a director of football in the personality of Vin Blaine, he shrugged it off. He isn't impressed with Blaine one bit. These two don't see eye to eye. He doesn't feel Vin has contributed much to developing football in the island and feels he would do a far better job.
Butler told me that he wouldn't be prepared to backtrack. That was his deal-breaker. Make him the man who runs football in Jamaica (essentially getting rid of Vin), or none of his players would represent Jamaica.
Burrell has some decisions to make. It's a difficult call. He wants the best youth players who are with Phoenix, especially Bailey, who would add both to the quality and hype around the programme, but is he prepared to accept Butler's demands? I doubt that will happen.
I throw out the following questions to my readers: Should Burrell acquiesce to Butler's demands and give him the technical reins of Jamaica's football in the hope of getting Bailey and company? Or should he stand his ground in thinking that Butler wants too much? Would it be fair to Vin Blaine to be forced aside to advance the cause of Butler? Could Burrell make both Vin and Butler happy, or will he have to choose?
Captain is yet to respond. Either way he goes, it's going to cause quite a stir. The implications would be far-reaching, whichever way this drama unfolds.
- Orville Higgins is a sportscaster and talk-show host at KLAS ESPN Sports FM. Email feedback to email@example.com.