Foster's Fairplay | Little room for error
The die has been cast as far as the medium term future of Jamaica's football is concerned. The delegates have voted, and the head of the Clarendon Football Association, Michael Ricketts, will lead the charge for another two years. He is only empowered, according to the Constitution of the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF), to hold the position for that period, as that is what it will take to finish the leg of leadership started by the late Captain Horace Burrell. Burrell took the country to the pinnacle of world football by having its name among the 32 finalists who answered the call for France, 1998. This has set a template which now sees such an elevation in status as a right, to be sustained against all the odds that stand in the way. Unfortunately, football does not work that way.
What should be the first order of business is the tackling of a huge debt, said to be in the region of approximately $300 million. The good news, if it can be so described, is that a substantial portion of this is owed to the Government and negotiations to reduce same should not be too much of a difficulty. Cleaning up the image of the nation's football should be seen as a responsibility for all those who are in a position to benefit from a better look. This includes the Government, as all the national teams who are ambassadors for Brand Jamaica, when they represent the country abroad, deserve the load-shedding of some of the burden which could hamper their progress.
There is, however, a major problem that could be in store for the new boss. Jamaica has already faltered in its steps towards the 2018 FIFA World Cup to be held in Moscow next year. The country will not be there, so, as Ricketts stated in pre-elections exchanges with the nation, the focus of his organisation's initiatives will be the next staging in Qatar in 2022. Thus, the dilemma rests in the fact that last Saturday's mandate will not carry him that far. How then can Ricketts, in his bid to impress, tackle that?
As Ricketts himself has stated, Jamaica's football is at a crossroads. Foster's Fairplay strongly supports that view. One of the points raised constantly during the campaign is that the JFF top man is only answerable to the 13 delegates who elected him to office. Nothing could be further from the truth, and if his Federation does not deliver the goods, he will soon find out. The entire country will be yapping at his heels.
Ricketts and his organisation will need the support required to achieve the nation's ambitious aims. The private sector will be called upon to play a major part in any process to advance the level at which the sport now sits. Since he is only assured of holding the reins for the next two years, what message in support of this will he take to them?
The defeated candidate, Stewart Stephenson, brought to the table, a number of the captains of industry, whom one could wish, expects will be in the forefront of any plans to support the sport through sponsorship.
The more fashionable term in current times, is partnership. If they sign up, they must move in concert with the thinking of their shareholders. It will be no easy task to get the signature of these big boys if they are not convinced that the present JFF regime will have their concepts mirrored. Failing this, they will consider that their funds are best invested elsewhere.
Interesting days lie ahead for the nation's football and the group that wears the crown of leadership. Hopefully, they will be up to the challenge. As is being seen coming out of the London World Championships medal shortfall, Jamaicans are intolerant of failures on the field of play. It is hoped that Ricketts and his team recognise, respect and rigorously respond to this. It will be a hard road to travel and not enough time, given the constraints explained. They need to move speedily and smartly to accomplish what the nation demands.
Foster's Fairplay wishes the very best for the new leaders of Jamaica's football.
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