Why no Wes? - Fennell explains Morgan snub
Chairman of the RJR Sports Foundation Selection Committee, Mike Fennell, explained that Wes Morgan's achievement of captaining Leicester City to the English Premier League title was not enough to satisfy the criteria for selection for the annual RJR National Sportsman and Sportswoman of the year award.
Football fans were hoping Morgan's unlikely Premier League success with Leicester City would have brought him consideration for the nation's most recognised individual sports award and end a 19-year wait for a win by a footballer. The only footballer to win the national sports award was Deon Burton, who did so in 1997, after his goals helped Jamaica qualify for the 1998 World Cup in France.
However, Fennell noted quite simply that Morgan, who captains both Jamaica's national senior team and Leicester City, simply did not meet the requirements for a nomination.
"The criteria is simple, he has to perform for Jamaica," Fennell told The Gleaner. "He did not perform for Jamaica, although he is a Jamaican and he acknowledges Jamaica. He performed for an English Premier League club in a club competition. It was not an international tournament, it was the Premier League. But he must be performing for Jamaica or on the behalf of Jamaica, so it's just a Jamaican performing well, so he did not fit the criteria."
Despite its popularity in Jamaica, football players are hardly able to meet the foundation's criteria, which states that nominees must have represented Jamaica in an internationally recognised sporting competition, with achievements at the Olympic Games or any recognised World Championships and competitors, who achieve a record world standard in their sport, satisfying the top level of qualification.
Level Two speaks to Commonwealth and Pan American level achievements, with Level Three pointing to honours achieved in regional competition. Level Four recognises local performances.
Fennell added that the rules for selection have worked without any issue over the years and he does not see the need to change it now.
"The selection has to follow the criteria. It would be a policy decision (to change the criteria). If we hadn't followed that (criteria) then people like Linford Christie and Donovan Bailey could have been considered in their day, because they are Jamaicans, and certainly Bailey from Canada when he won the Olympics," he noted.
Track and field athletes dominate at the yearly awards, but Fennell believes other sports can make it more competitive by improving their level and performing more consistently on the international circuit.
"Being in a team sport makes it very difficult to excel as an individual ... in the past, we have had Deon Burton. But every sport has their level of competition; we have just been excelling in athletics at the international level. But every sport has their competitions, and it's for those athletes to reach those levels," he said.
Micheal Binns is the only footballer included in the award this year. He has been nominated for the People's Choice Performance of the Year award for his 35-yard strike in the local Premier League final.
The RJR Sports Foundational National Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year award ceremony will take place at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel on January 13.