Orville Higgins | The Butler doesn't own the house
Craig Butler has been a polarising figure in Jamaica's football for years. You either love him or hate him. He seems to have admirers and detractors in fairly equal numbers.
Over the last week, Butler has been on the lips of every sports journalist in Jamaica. He has been the subject of entire sports programmes.
Craig is a man on a mission, except that at times, there is doubt about what his mission really is. His admirers feel his motives are all pure. They believe that he merely wants what is best for some young Jamaican footballers, including his son Kyle. Those who don't support him think that he is on a power trip to always prove to the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) that he has arrived. Maybe the answer lies somewhere between the two extremes.
At the heart of the row is Leon Bailey, who has been the most exciting talent that we have produced in many a moon. Craig knows that the JFF wants him badly, but he also knows that Leon can be used as a tool to get some of the things that Craig wants.
It's not as underhanded as it may sound. We all have ambitions and dreams, and some of us are prepared to use the means at our disposal to get what we want.
Craig wants to have a hand in running Jamaica's football. It's not necessarily a desire that is steeped in selfishness. He may well have genuine reasons to think he is the best man for the job. When he looks around, he may well believe that his vision, his contacts, and his commitment give him a huge advantage over everyone else. He may well be right.
That, however, doesn't mean that Craig is going about things the right way. It cannot be that the father-agent of a footballer should feel it is within his remit to decide that the technical director of a nation's programme must go before he 'frees up' his son-player. That was as a result, it had been argued, of a vendetta he had against Vin Blaine, with whom he crossed swords in the past.
It cannot be right that Butler is insisting that those in the hierarchy of Jamaica's football first convince him that their programmes and philosophies meet his standard before he allows Leon to play. If every agent or father were to insist on these conditions, football, as we know it, cannot exist.
A BIG ACE
He is clearly pushing the federation to also play his son. No matter how good Kyle Butler is, it rubs me the wrong way that his father is insisting that he plays for Jamaica. He is only making those conditions because in Leon, he knows he holds a big ace. He claims his sons want to play for Jamaica. That may be true, but it is not the number-one priority for them. If Craig really wanted him to play for Jamaica, he would already be playing. There are other things that take precedence.
The JFF, in the meantime, is caught between a rock and a hard place. They want, probably need, Leon Bailey. Jamaica's football could do with the quality of Bailey on the field, and his box-office appeal could help Jamaica at the gate.
But while they may feel Bailey is crucial to the programme, they feel that they have to be careful how they appear to kowtow to Butler. No leader wants to feel that weak or that vulnerable. The JFF is in a psychological war with Butler.
Before money was invented as a means of exchange, men use to barter. One of the problems of the barter system is that there had to be a double coincidence of wants. Both parties must want what the other was trading. The real issue here is that the JFF is prepared to have Bailey, but is reluctant to meet Butler's conditions. This may well peter out into a stalemate or something has to give.
At the moment I don't see Butler budging. As he himself has said, Bailey doesn't really need the JFF. He feels that the JFF needs Bailey. In any negotiation, the one who is most likely to get the better half is the one who can walk away without the deal being made at all.
Who stands to lose more if Bailey plays for Jamaica is the real issue here. Butler will no longer hold the ace card if the JFF loses interest in his son. At the moment, this is as much about ego as it is about football.
Who'll blink first?
- Orville Higgins is a sportscaster and talk-show host at KLAS ESPN Sports FM. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.