Thu | Nov 14, 2019

Dalton Myers | Capitalising on Girlz’s success

Published:Saturday | May 18, 2019 | 12:14 AM
Jamaica’s Marlo Sweatman (right) celebrates a goal with teammates during the Reggae Girlz’s international friendly against Chile at the National Stadium on Thursday, February 28.

Jamaica’s Reggae Girlz will make one last appearance on Sunday in front of their home fans before embarking on their historic journey to France for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup. The Girlz are currently 53rd on the latest FIFA Women’s table and hope to use the tournament to improve their ranking.

I hope many of our fans will come out to support the Girlz as they take on Panama in what is expected to be an emotional send-off. To be honest, I am not sure if many of us have yet realised what this means for the advancement of women in sports in Jamaica and just how significant this could be to empower girls and women in sports. So the support for the Girlz this week, leading up to the tournament and during the competition, is crucial for development of the sport, and the investment now is paving way for the future of women football locally.

GENDER BIASES

The truth is, there are still some persons who do not believe girls and women should play certain sport, and the discussions around gender and sport are never-ending. The reasons against girls and women playing football are many, and some are based on cultural stereotypes. Whatever it is, my hope that the celebration of the Reggae Girlz’s success will help to shape women’s sport locally in terms of financial investment, perception and development.

While the team continues to make us proud, there are still some areas that must improve to push women football further in Jamaica. First, the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) needs to rethink its overall strategic plan in relation to the women’s game locally and make greater investment in grass-roots and developmental programmes. No longer can we accept careless statements about our female programme and biased arguments about our Girlz and their hopes for any international or regional qualification. I know the JFF will say that football is a business and funding is limited, but I would think we now see that there are investors out there willing to support. However, those investors need to see the local body setting the example and having a well-articulated plan for the women’s programme at all levels.

Additionally, the JFF should work closely with the clubs to mandate that each club at the Premier League level has a female programme. I know the cry from the Premier League Clubs Association will be about funding and marketability. Trust me, I know the expenses of running similar set-ups, but we are the only ones who suffer when we withhold resources from our talented and educated women in sports.

The Bob Marley Foundation’s help has been great, and the establishment of the Reggae Girlz Foundation has been tremendous in building this programme. The JFF now has to make significant steps in providing opportunities for our young girls to have access to resources to hone their skills. Now is also a good time to partner with local tertiary institutions to help those who want to play locally while getting an education, and importantly, accessing the resources of the various institutions for training and development.

CAPITALISING ON BIG MOMENTS

Personally, I am thrilled at the prospect of Jamaica participating in the Women’s World Cup, and later in the Pan-American Games in Peru. These are huge accomplishments, and the management team and coaching staff led by Hue Menzies deserve more credit. It has been a long road, but we are now on the big stage.

As we keep an eye on the big occasion and the JFF marketing team ramps up the promotions around the current crop of players, I hope we are also cognisant of ensuring we capitalise on these moments from a business of sport perspective. I hope the JFF also remembers how we failed to capitalise on the men’s World Cup qualification in 1998, and the many other momentous sporting occasions. Hopefully, we have learned from those and will do better this time around.

Along the way, there have been several issues, including eligibility challenges, but I eagerly await the naming of the final squad, which is due any time now. Our first game is on June 9 and I will be supporting our Girlz. So to the team, I wish for you all success in France, and whatever the result, Jamaica is forever grateful for your service.

Dalton Myers is a sports consultant and administrator. Email feedback to daltonsmyers@gmail.com or tweet @daltonsmyers.