Orville Higgins | Ricketts' presidency destined
As I expected, Michael Ricketts was voted president of the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF). It should not have come as a surprise to anyone. The minute it was announced that he had secured eight nominations, it was clear that he wouldn't lose. It wasn't likely that two or more of the parishes would have turned against him.
Ambassador Stephenson ran a good campaign. He beat the pavement, making several trips all around the island to convince the presidents that he was the man. He did enough to convince one more than who nominated him, the enigmatic Danny Beckford, to throw his support behind him. That, in itself, is no surprise.
Danny and some members of the JFF's inner core have not seen eye to eye for a while. It was obvious in Captain Burrell's last days that he and Beckford were at daggers drawn, and that those close to Burrell were complicit in getting him banned.
Michael Ricketts has always been seen as a Burrell loyalist. Therefore, Danny Beckford may well have seen him as a natural enemy. Like Beckford, Ambassador Stephenson has had his differences with Burrell over the years. The old saying goes that the enemy of my enemy is my friend, so it was almost natural that Ambassador Stephenson and Danny Beckford would end up on the same side.
I don't believe that Danny Beckford needed too much persuading from Ambassador Stephenson. Not too long ago, he was banned (unfairly if you ask me) from all football-related matters. Many of the people supporting Ricketts would have either sat idly by and watched the suspension take place or didn't voice a word in protest about it.
It isn't surprising that Beckford didn't throw in his lot with Ricketts. This is not dissimilar to Craig Butler throwing his support behind Ricketts as opposed to the ambassador. This isn't about policy. That was simply a personal matter. The bad blood between Butler and some of those at Kingston and St Andrew Football Association (KSAFA) still rankles after his suspension, and it is clear that he still has not forgotten.
Michael Ricketts' job was easier. He concentrated on the delegates in a very personal way. Many of these delegates were people with whom he would have been friends over the years, and he ensured that he appealed to this close-knit camaraderie. Ricketts has always been a grass-roots man, easily approachable, and comes as someone who will listen. That did the trick.
I have spoken to one of the delegates who supported Ricketts, and he told me that he feels he could talk to Ricketts in a way that he couldn't with Ambassador Stephenson. The ambassador is a good, decent man, one whom I admire highly. He is probably more comfortable around the hallowed halls of power than Ricketts. If this were a public vote, he would probably beat Ricketts as well, but among a select group of parish football administrators, Ricketts was too close to the bunch to lose.
The ambassador knew he was the underdog, and, therefore, had to pull for the national card. His breakfast launch, the aligning with sponsors, and the launch of his manifesto, were all designed to make him look good in the public eye. It did, and after that, people were calling on Ricketts to do the same. He didn't - and he didn't have to. It didn't make a difference to the delegates. I told anybody who would listen that Ricketts only needed to concentrate on the other 12 parish presidents, that he never needed to appeal to anybody who wasn't part of the electorate.
This is the third president in a row who has a background in Clarendon - Burrell, Boxhill, and now Ricketts. It may be entirely coincidental. What is not a coincidence is that we have not had anybody from KSAFA heading JFF for a long while. KSAFA is the best and most successful confed over the recent past, but there are still some of the rural parish heads who feel that KSAFA may not always act in their best interest. It may be an entirely unfair perception, but the perception exists. Those who believe that the town-country dichotomy was not at work in this election don't know what is happening in local football.
Ricketts' honeymoon will be short. He will be harshly judged from day one. Burrell made the job of JFF president a very high-profile one. The nation will wait to see how he tackles the issues regarding local football.
The ambassador does have his supporters, and they will be watching and waiting for him to slip up. Time will tell if he will make a good president. The next two years will be very interesting.
- Orville Higgins is a sportscaster and talk-show host at KLAS ESPN Sports FM. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.