Mon | Jun 1, 2020

The business of football

Published:Saturday | April 7, 2018 | 12:00 AMCraig Butler
Phoenix Academy founder Craig Butler (centre) and standout players – his sons Leon Bailey (left) and Kyle Butler.

In recent times, many have been questioning my motives and decisions relating to professional football and the players who I manage.

Some have stated unequivocally that the Jamaica Football Federation should not bow to the pre-conditions which they say have been set before Leon Bailey et al would represent the country of their birth.

The arguments are that no negotiations should be done with agents and that Jamaica doesn't need a system, just players willing to play for Jamaica.

Paul Hall, in his own exuberance and patriotism, has forgotten that he was developed in England and found that he had Jamaican roots after not being selected by the English FA and made an effort to join Jamaica's football team.

A passport was produced and the rest is history.

Let's try to dissect exactly what has been advocated for and why it is important.

1. A national system of development that is uniformed.

2. A transparent method of selection that is objective and not subjective.

3. The establishment of a national football culture.

One might argue that Leon Bailey, in his success at the club level, would be immune to the subjective selection process that currently exists, and, therefore, there should be no reason why he should not take up the call if he loves Jamaica.

Let us accept that Leon Bailey-Butler loves his country, his countrymen, and wants the very best for the nation.

If that is accepted, we must consider this. It is not what a man does that makes his actions sacred or secular, rather, it is why he does it.

Leon, although being given options by England, Germany, Belgium, et cetera, has still not committed to plying his trade for any country. Why? Because he, like me, and all of Phoenix Academy, loves Jamaica and wants to see the country advance.


Request to have a transparent method of selection


Leon Bailey was top scorer and MVP in the KSAFA Under-13, Under-15, and Under-17 and yet was never called up for the national team. He went to Europe and dominated on levels never before seen in Europe. He scored 75 goals in 15 games - a record in Austria to date - yet he was again never called. Why? Because the selection process was not objective. His statistics didn't matter.

Years later, when dominating in Genk, under Vin Blaine, the technical director of the national team, because of a personal view, bias, or opinion, one of our country's best professional players was considered ordinary and left off the national teams.

There are many other stories - there's Kyle Butler, who has had similar stories, Jason Wright, and others.

Statistics, if they were used to select players for camps and national duties, would replace the subjective with the objective and keep personal choices at a minimum.

So for the betterment of the country, it's key to have transparency in selection.

Twenty-three Phoenix footballers are in Europe playing in pro leagues, and none has been called to the national team.


The second request


We must look at what is versus what we would like to see.

At this time, Jamaica's football is geographically based, and all the board members of the parish associations are connected to a club, and all the board members of the JFF are also connected to clubs.

With the work permit rules in England stating that a player must have played 75 per cent of the national teams' games as a starter immediately prior to application, it is clear that there is a conflict of interest manifested if there is no statistical method of selecting a team for training.

It appears that, for the club presidents sitting on the board of the JFF to make money (for their clubs), they must push the players from their clubs into the national team whether or not they are good enough.

Thus, no Phoenix player has been selected for Jamaica's national team unless they leave Phoenix to play for the club of a board member.

Notable players include Romario Williams, Shawn Lawes, Jason Wright, Jorginho James.

The second focus has to be on establishing a national football system and culture that is understood from the youth levels all the way up to the first team.

Why are we saying that this must be mandatory? A professional club is mandated by FIFA to provide a release of one week - seven days. So on the premise that our best players will be playing professionally in different systems across the globe with different coaches, we should look at the following:

- Day One: Fly from European country to Jamaica.

- Day Two: Train.

- Day Three: Travel to country where game is being played.

- Day Four: Game day.

- Day Five: Fly back to Jamaica.

- Day Six: Fly back to country in Europe.

- Day Seven: Recover for game in club.

So in reality, when a player leaves Europe in the system his club plays, he has one training session before playing for Jamaica in a totally different system of play.

If there is no system that the player has grown up in and knows how it operates, will the team have synergy?

Every country has the same mandated break, so how do other countries like Belgium, Germany, and Spain look and play with synergy?

They all have one thing in common: They have a national football system and culture developed by having the same methodology implemented across all clubs, schools, etc, within the country so that when those players return home to play, they know what is expected, they know THIS IS HOW WE DO IT.

I have been a supporter of developing our own home-grown talent and establishing our own system rather than recruiting players from England that their national team doesn't want.

Paul Hall, I believe, was one such player not home grown, not developed in Jamaica, but also called in through the same methods England, Germany, and Belgium are considering Leon.

I am not against a few foreign-developed nationals in the team, but it must not be the norm, or our country will never develop its own identity.

Now, on the subject of people saying that the football association should not negotiate with agents, I have read where Ravel Morrison's agent was contacted to have him meet with the JFF, where they would discuss his joining Jamaica's national team.

Morrison was an England international player that fell out of favour. Yet Jamaica is willing to negotiate with his agent but not do so with Leon Bailey-Butler, a well established professional footballer.

Throughout the world, football players don't speak to national team officials. Their managers do. And they do so for a reason: to ensure that a proper solution for the player exists when representing his national team. An uncapped player has to sit and hear the solution the prospective country has for him and how that will work for the country's football.

My request to help Jamaica establish a national football culture that would incorporate the real heroes of our 1998 World Cup squad as national technical trainers to establish this system was not a demand to have a position with the JFF. It was an effort to utilise my expertise and experience to help set the template for the country to use so that there is not one national team, but four layers in each age group that would provide our beloved young coach, Theodore Whitmore, his able assistants, Jerome Waite and Donovan Duckie, with an avenue to take us to a World Cup and win it.

I ask you, the people of Jamaica, to demand objectivity, to depend on transparency and remove conflicts of interest in order that the best nation in the world - in terms of natural, raw, human materials - can attain its destiny of being the top in world football and eradicate poverty from our shores through football.

I thank you,

Craig Butler

Craig Butler is the founder of the Phoenix Academy.