Bailey defends Tennis Jamaica's position
Andre Lowe, Senior Staff Reporter
A Supreme Court judge has prohibited Tennis Jamaica from taking any further steps relating to the team selected to represent the country at the International Tennis Federation (ITF)/GSDF 12 and Under Central America and the Caribbean Tennis Confederation (COTECC) Team Championships set for Mexico, November 1-7.
This after yesterday's preliminary hearing into a case brought by two parents against the local administrators, following the decision to forgo national trials ahead of the Mexico tournament, a development that has left the island's two top players - their children - out of the fray.
The case will be heard again next Thursday, with parents Joe Dibbs and Joseph Azar trying to convince the court to force Tennis Jamaica to dismantle its four-member team named on results from a St Lucia pre-qualifier and stage local trials, as is the precedent established last year.
The parents, who accused the local body of nepotism and conflicts of interest are contending that their children Emma Dibbs and Johnny Azar, who are both ranked at number one in the under-12 and are in the top two in the under-14 age groups, were forced to book their spots through trials last year - even after advancing from the pre-qualifier. The pre-qualifier was staged in Kingston, last year.
However, Tennis Jamaica president John Bailey has defended his administration's position and has distanced the regulators from the perceived favouritism.
"The truth is this is a very unfortunate thing and I say unfortunate because it involves children and they are being hurt. You hear talk about favouritism so the kids start wondering if they are in the team because of favouritism and I find that horrific; I really do. These are 11- and 12-year-old kids," said Bailey.
"Tennis Jamaica reserves the right to select and make recommendation as to who travels where and when," Bailey told The Gleaner. "Because something happened last year, it doesn't mean exactly that it will happen this year. I think the key thing is, these two players - Emma Dibbs and John Azar - were invited to go to St Lucia and they declined full stop."
The players' parents argue however, that they were invited too late to make any adjustments to their plans and that they were assured that like last year, the team would be selected on the results of a local trial and not those of the pre-qualifier.
"I see that matter, but every one of these kids were invited at the same time, they had ample time to navigate themselves, it was not a matter of days, the deadline for entry was July 28, and I believe they were sent the invitation on July 12," Bailey rebutted. "We would have issued it (invitation) as (soon as) we got it from the ITF, its not like we had it holding up for weeks."
It was noted that two of the selected players are coached by Tennis Jamaica's technical director and the selection committee chairman, Lockett McGregor, amd another of the selected players is coached by board member Richard Russell, while the other two are sponsored by a company owned by Bailey, raising doubts about the selection process.
"I can assure you that I don't even get involved in team selection," said Bailey. "That is not a part of the consideration. The selected players are the best players that we have that were available. They (Azar and Dibbs) are ranked number one and they were contacted first."
"(Two of the selected) kids are two of Jamaica's top juniors coming from very challenging backgrounds. They did well in Jamaica, we see them as big potential for us down the road and we want to encourage them. They don't always get these kinds of opportunities and that's what it is," Bailey added.