Sat | Aug 24, 2019

Orville Higgins | ISSA-FLOW schoolboy football split , wrong or right?

Published:Saturday | August 4, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Kingston College (KC) players celebrate with the ISSA/FLOW Super Cup trophy after a 3-0 win over St Elizabeth Technical in the final at Sabina Park, on November 25, 2017.
Omar Thompson of Kingston College and Nickjay White (right) of St Elizabeth Technical High School battle during the ISSA/FLOW Super Cup final at Sabina Park last November.

There is a litany of cliches that I could call on now that would capture the latest issue surrounding FLOW and the sponsorship (or more appropriately the lack thereof) of schoolboy football.

"All good things must come to an end," and one of my mothers favourite, "only good salvation last forever," are two that come readily to mind.

Based on several reports that are floating around in the public space, it now seems that the marriage that started between FLOW and the Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA), has now officially ended in divorce.

Usually when a marriage breaks down, both parties are quick to blame the other. It's a natural human trait to point the fingers elsewhere when any relationship comes to a halt. I have spoken to representatives from both parties and my own take is that in their own way both sides feel the other was being a little unreasonable. I need not get into the details here but it is clear that they could not agree on the terms and conditions going forward for another contractual period. Both sides were fairly adamant on what they wanted and a compromise could not be reached.

In the typical divorce one of the hardest decisions to be made by the couple and the judge is who gets what after the split. It is never a straightforward decision. Sometimes the parties can feel more aggrieved after the settlement than they were before, with each feeling that they were entitled to much more than they got.

In the end, I think both ISSA and FLOW felt they were entitled to more than what the other was prepared to give. Schoolboy football has always been huge in Jamaica.

On a week-by-week basis, it is the most-watched sporting spectacle in the island. Only 'Champs' makes more money for ISSA, and so they have always known that the Manning and dacosta Cup competitions are among their most fundamental tools to garner resources.

When FLOW came on board a few years ago, they came with a pretty penny, $150 million we were told for a five-year deal. By that single act in itself, FLOW helped in no small way to raise the profile of schoolboy football. An artiste may always have had a reputation and a following but when he is signed to a big label, his stocks go up. One of the nuances of that kind of big sponsorship is now who is entitled to what.


Who owns the product?


ISSA still owned the product called schoolboy football but just like a big company that signs an artiste, FLOW wanted their value from all this too.

Out of all this, the FLOW Super Cup was conceptualised. Some will agree some will not, but outside of Twenty20 cricket, no new concept in sports in Jamaica has quite enjoyed the success of the FLOW Super Cup in this generation.

ISSA may own the right to schoolboy football, but the FLOW Super Cup demonstrated to ISSA, and indeed to all and sundry, what powers schoolboy football really had. It wasn't just the crowds either. It was the razzmatazz. The spectacle. The good fields. FLOW certainly opened up the eyes of all of us to what schoolboy football can be. I thought the marriage would continue. All the public utterances from both sides were pointing to the arrangement continuing, but it wasn't to be.

As much as there were fans to this brilliant idea, there were also detractors. I remember being on radio and having to defend FLOW when a few people felt that the Super Cup was killing football. The naysayers wanted to know why this injection of cash and professionalism couldn't go into the traditional Manning and daCosta cups. I remember being at pains to tell these people that the 'country versus town' concept was just sheer brilliance. It was simply an idea whose time had come and FLOW had capitalised on it expertly.

The massive crowds revealed that the country had bought into it. During all this, there were whispers from some ISSA insiders. They wouldn't necessarily come public, but they would speak silently against the FLOW Super Cup. They talked about burn out and increased playing days. These were genuine concerns of course, but I got the feeling at times that having now seen the huge success of the FLOW Super Cup, there were elements in ISSA who wanted more say and more control over this gargantuan new concept.

Whether that was the real reason behind the two parties inability to see eye-to-eye around the negotiation table, I cannot say.

What I will say is that FLOW and especially the FLOW Super Cup will be a hard act to replace and a difficult act to follow. I don't know what were the deal breakers between ISSA and FLOW, but the onus is now on ISSA to duplicate what FLOW was offering.

ISSA will in fact be under pressure to ensure that schoolboy football will have the same buzz going forward. Whoever it is that will take on the Super Cup will know they have big shoes to fill.

Did ISSA do the prudent thing in parting ways, or should they have just gone with the flow? Watch this space!