Oral Tracey | JFF bows to KSAFA
It was always a move motivated by the politics of football rather than the actual good of football. The decision to restructure and the design of the restructure of the qualification process for the Red Stripe Premier League (RSPL) were destined to have the net effect of curtailing the dominance of the Kingston and St Andrew Football Federation (KSAFA) teams in the RSPL.
The stated rationale by the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) was to ensure that a wider spread of teams from across the parishes would get a realistic chance of playing in the top flight, with, of course, the unstated political benefit of having more happy parish presidents when the time comes for the election of the next JFF administration.
Geographical consideration for the allocation of teams only works in a franchise system or for FIFA showpiece events such as the World Cup. It can never credibly apply to a nation's premier football league. Qualification to the top league must be a transparent process that facilitates the elevation of the best teams in the country regardless of the location of those teams.
In the English Premier League, for example, there are six London-based clubs without any sort of discord in that jurisdiction because all these teams qualified for the premiership on merit. As it relates to the local league, where half of the 12 teams in the RSPL are from the powerful KSAFA confederation, there ought not to be any issues since they are all there all based on merit and a transparent and credible qualification process. What the JFF was attempting was all political and was wrong for football.
As the representatives of KSAFA have been at pains to explain, KSAFA is ahead of all the other parish associations, not just in terms of sheer numbers, but in terms of organisation and the structure of the clubs, as well as the running of sponsored senior and age-group competitions, which are all crucial to the overall development process.
It is therefore no fluke that KSAFA consistently boasts the proportional majority of the teams in the RSPL. That eventuality is merely a reflection of the disparity in the levels of administrative organisation and success between themselves and the other parish associations. The vehement opposition of KSAFA to the proposed changes for qualifying by the JFF was therefore on logical and principled grounds.
The issue many observers had was with the action taken by KSAFA to boycott this season's qualification process as a mark of protest. That move appeared to be an extreme bully tactic with, at the time, no end game in sight. The many observers were wrong.
The bully tactics worked as the JFF has backtracked on the initial change of format and have indeed accepted KSAFA'S recommendations to reintroduce a process that will provide a more level playing field and facilitate the best teams qualifying for the RSPL. JFF president Michael Ricketts, general secretary Dalton Wint, and company will have to manage the fallout from what now appears to have been initially misguided and now weak leadership.
All's well that ends well, or is it? One wonders, how will this by the JFF on such a high-profile issue, affect the re-election charge of the current administration? With a major part of the pandering plan now going up in smoke, how will the parish presidents who were seeking an easy passage to the Premier League respond? Either way, some semblance of order has been restored, and regardless of which egos are bruised and which political agenda might be derailed, the fact of the matter is that the JFF bowed, not just to KSAFA, but fortunately, they bowed to good sense and to football.