Dalton Myers | It's not all about football
The Jamaica Inter-secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA) earlier this week launched its 2018 scholboy football competitions, set to start on Saturday, September 8, with much fanfare and excitement. This includes the Manning Cup, Walker Cup, daCosta Cup, Ben Francis Cup, and Champions Cup. I am really happy for the respective stakeholders, especially student-athletes who get a chance to showcase their talents in a very competitive environment despite the many challenges.
If we remember, back in 2013, telecommunications company FLOW had a deal worth approximately $150m expiring at the end of the 2017 season. When that arrangement was not renewed, in came Digicel (with a $75m deal) to sponsor the urban-area Manning Cup and Wysinco (with $100m) to sponsor the rural-area daCosta Cup over the next three years. Other sponsors KFC, ($18m) and SportsMax (over $28m), will also be contributing to the competitions. Additionally, the major sponsors have indicated several sponsorship activations to ensure that they get returns on their investments. I can only imagine how happy the schools are about these recent developments as I would imagine that this will help to bolster their football and, by extension, general sports programmes.
I know that ISSA has consistently maintained that it is a board of principals merely carrying out their duties of ensuring that students get a good physical education. While that may be the case, they manage two of the largest sporting events in Jamaica, which probably requires a structured business model with a CEO or managing director. What I would love to see as part of the mandate of ISSA over the next three years is some of these sponsorship funding being invested in some critical areas.
Lack of proper facilities, like playing surfaces, can hamper the honing and development of the skills and techniques of these student-athletes. Yes, I know we have a national problem, but this will help the youngsters in this crucial stage to develop better fundamental football techniques. Maybe ISSA could look to partner with a company that could help maintain and rehabilitate these facilities free of cost to schools or use some form of cost-sharing measures. The top schools have better-than-average surfaces, in some cases - better surfaces than our tertiary institutions and clubs, but the majority of schools struggle with developing and/or maintaining proper facilites.
ISSA indicated at the launch that this year, the hope is to protect the intellectual property rights of the organisation and its sponsors, as well as to ensure that "comfort, security and satisfaction are paramount". I am sure that somewhere there was the promise of promoting proper nutrition and a focus on the health and wellness of players and support staff. This is important not just in terms of giving greater rest periods between matches, but also, for example, for a heavy focus on medical check-ups, and a concussion policy.
PLATFORM FOR YOUNGSTERS
Additionally, ISSA's football competitions are such huge events that maybe it's time they use it as a platform for youngsters including these student-athletes. Our young men face so many challenges, including substance abuse, at an early age. This is something we could look into.
Like many, I believe that there is more to be unearthed from our schoolboy football competitions. I also believe that while the competitions are very helpful, it's unclear the extent to which they can potentially hamper the development of the national football programme. However, I personally don't believe that it's ISSA's job to solve our football problems. Indeed, the body is an influential stakeholder but that job lies squarely at the foot of the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF). The JFF, as the governing body for football, should come up with a model that includes schoolboy competitions to complement a national football academy and the other local collegiate and club competitions.
The Professional Football Association of Jamaica (PFAJ) has indicated that the Red Stripe Premier League is set to start a week after ISSA's competitions. My hope is that one day, the Premier League Clubs Association (PLCA) and the PFAJ will be able to attract similar types of sponsorship from many partners so the student-athletes can look forward to a financially rewarding competition post-high school.
Until then, all the best to the competitors.
"Perstare et Praestare."
- Dalton Myers is a sports consultant and administrator. Email feedback to email@example.com