Rating Ricketts - JFF boss set to secure own mandate at today’s AGM
Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) president Michael Ricketts is set to receive his own mandate after today’s annual general meeting after being returned unopposed to the role despite a controversy-filled two years in charge of the country’s football.
Ricketts, who took over the reins at the federation in 2017 following the passing of Captain Horace Burrell, has the full backing of the local football gatekeepers after a couple of half-hearted attempts to unseat him failed to received the required support from delegates, with 11 of the 13 parish associations throwing their support behind the president.
The experienced administrator is no Captain Burrell, lacking the charisma and acumen of his predecessor, but he must have felt like one at times as he steered a tattered JFF dinghy through choppy waters over a highly polarising, two-year spell.
Poor handling of contract negotiations with Reggae Boyz head coach Theodore Whitmore and the Reggae Girlz, a prolonged squabble over the availability of Leon Bailey, the delay in payments to Red Stripe Premier League referees, the national Under-15 visa fiasco, public disputes with women’s football patron Cedella Marley, and a general failure to generate adequate funding and sponsorship for growth are a few of the failings highlighted over Ricketts’ two years in charge.
His supporters will, however, point to the Reggae Girlz’s historic World Cup qualification, the Reggae Boyz, reaching the Gold Cup semi-finals, and the completion of the long overdue UWI-Captain Horace Burrell Centre of Excellence as major accomplishments achieved under his watch.
Noted businessman and chairman at Boys’ Town Football Club Leon Mitchell believes that the federation needs stronger engagement with the private sector and that Ricketts and his team must handle issues in a more swift and prudent manner.
“I am disappointed with what happened to the women. He should have prepared himself before, and it shouldn’t have lingered. That is unprofessional, and it’s probably not his fault, but the buck stops with the boss. So you get the praise for performing well and you get the criticism if you do things wrong,” Mitchell said.
“But how do we get money in the game and sponsors get their pound of flesh, and are we really ready for the professional side of football? So we need to have a debate and then put the plan in place to get a better professional programme,” Mitchell added before highlighting communication as a major issue for Ricketts and his administration.
“If they don’t have a good communicator, you need to bring one in, someone who can communicate with the public and keep them informed. So they need a communicator who would be up front, speaking about the game,” he recommended.
Former Kingston and St Andrew Football Association (KSAFA) president and Cavalier boss Rudolph Speid believes that Ricketts and his team must show improvement in contract negotiations but thinks that having secured his own mandate, the president will be better able to effect the changes necessary to improve the association’s efficiency.
Interestingly, as far as the development of infrastructure is concerned, Speid, who served as treasurer in the Crenston Boxhill-led administration from 2003 to 2007, declared that the completion of the UWI-Captain Horace Burrell Centre of Excellence placed Ricketts and his team at the top of the pile in terms of infrastructural development.
“From an infrastructure point of view, they are the number one administration ever,” Speid claimed before also defending the performance of the nation’s teams under Ricketts.
“We were in the top eight out of 51 countries,” Speid said in reference to the PanAm Games. “The men’s senior team is ranked fourth in Concacaf and on course to qualify for the Hexagonal round.”
He, however, agrees that Ricketts and his team have struggled in their handling of contracts and negotiations.
“They have problems with contracts, whether it is ‘Tappa’ (Whitmore) or the Girlz or the Olympic Boyz or Gold Cup money. The Under-15 Boyz did not get to travel, and there is always some rumbling about what players must get and what people are not getting, so they need a lot of improvement in those areas,” said Speid.
“But he has his own mandate, and he will be able to put more things in place. If he can’t, maybe the people were right,” Speid added. “They could have also done better with the Reggae Girlz qualification, but Michael Ricketts never hides. Any time you put a camera in his face, he says something, although the communication may not be that effective.”
Ricketts himself has admitted to the need for improvement and has pointed to the need for administrative adjustments.
“We have done some things good, and we would have made some mistakes, which we do not intend to make again. When we officially take office on September 16, we have to strengthen the administrative arm of the JFF and the parish associations, strengthen our youth programmes, and improve our grass-roots programme. We must ensure that we all work together, and we want people whose decisions are non-political, and this is all in the interest of growing the sport,” Ricketts said.