Fri | Dec 15, 2017

Follow The Trace | Is Ricketts the right choice?

Published:Tuesday | September 19, 2017 | 12:16 AM
New Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) president Michael Ricketts (right) speaking with his campaign manager, Hanover Football Association president and Mayor of Lucea Sheridan Samuels (left), before Saturday’s vote at the JFF headquarters. Looking on is Gregory Daley, president of the St James Football Association.

The parish association presidents have spoken. Long-serving Clarendon Football Association (FA) resident Michael Ricketts is the new president of the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF). Most observers and football fans are well aware of the nuances of the process which saw the expected elevation of Ricketts to the highest-profile job in local sport. It was the closed fraternity affair decided by the presidents of the thirteen parish associations; they and they only that made this crucial decision.

Ricketts was always favoured in this race based on him garnering the support of eight of the 13 parish bosses at the nomination phase, and for the sake of Jamaica's football we all hope Ricketts turns out to be an inspirational and magical leader who will unite and inspire great success for the nation's most popular sport. There are however, some major concerns about the reasons, and, or motives behind the majority of delegates unwavering support of Ricketts for this most pivotal position.

The newly elected president himself was very quiet in terms of public utterances leading into the elections, but based on my official and unofficial interactions with several stakeholders in this process, the expressed reasons for supporting Ricketts seem to have very little to do with football itself, and more to do with pettiness and parochialism.

The most publicised utterances in that regard came from the Trelawny FA president who shockingly gave the reason for his support of Ricketts as a desire of the old guard, inclusive of the new president, to fix the problems of the JFF that they created themselves, and not allow anyone else to come in and fix the problems and take credit for fixing them.

Unofficially, I have been reliably informed that this contest was a straight fight between rural Jamaica and urban Jamaica in football terms. Basically, the rural parishes did not want Kingston to run football, thus the support of Ricketts, from Clarendon, ahead of Stephenson, formerly of the Kingston and St Andrew Football Association.

 

Popularity contest?

 

There was also the issue of likeability. One 'insider' mentioned that Ricketts was much more likeable and approachable than the contrastingly aloof ambassador.

One individual privately articulated that he was looking forward to making some 'foreign trips' , thus his support for his candidate of choice. This left room for no sound debates on philosophical or ideological differences between the two candidates; no analysis of substantively what each candidate was bringing to the table to make local football better, relative to the other, as part of a well thought-out and sophisticated bases for choosing the best man for the job.

Very little was made of the comparative track record of performance of the respective candidates, or the likelihood of one candidate being better able to align local football with powerful corporate entities, which would go a long way in tackling the significant debt of the federation. These poignant issues were either never discussed or were simply trivialised as peripheral and petty issues took charge of the agenda.

The notion that Ricketts is expected to be less autocratic and more inclusive than his predecessor was, and that Ambassador Stephenson would be, also came into play. From keen observation of football the world over, it is clear to see that strong inspirational leadership has always been the model for success in football. That clichÈd notion that we are all in charge really means no one is in charge. The governance of football at this level needs a leader who will be fully in charge.

Ricketts might yet turn out to be the best man and perfect fit for the job as JFF president. I sincerely hope so. However, even as I wish him well and say congratulations, all things considered, I cannot help thinking that Ricketts was elected JFF president for the wrong reasons. But what do I know? I am a mere outsider.