Mon | Oct 19, 2020

Football season faces further delay

Published:Saturday | August 8, 2020 | 12:00 AMLivingston Scott/Gleaner Writer
Humble Lion’s Andre Clennon (left) jumps high for a ball with Vere United’s Kenroy Lumsden during their Red Stripe Premier League game at the Wembley Centre of Excellence in Hayes, Clarendon, on Sunday, December 15, 2019.

Football stakeholders are concerned that the start of the 2020-2021 Red Stripe Premier League and schoolboy football seasons could be pushed back even further than October.

This is because of what has been a dramatic rise in local COVID-19 cases over the past week. Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) Technical Committee Chairman Rudolph Speid says there will be no rush to start the new season as observation will be done to see when it is safe to proceed.

“To be a responsible person, we can’t ignore what is happening in the country,” Speid said. “There is an uptick in the number of active cases we have and we don’t have a COVID-19 protocol signed off [by the Government].

“We are very wary that the Government says there shouldn’t be more than 20 people congregating at one time, so we in football have no option but to obey the Government guidelines.

“Some communities have started to be affected, so we are now having what you call community spread and once it reaches there, it cannot be controlled that easily. So we are not going to be rushed. We are going to be very careful.

“The prime minister says that for next month, we should know [if safety protocols are approved]. But because of the spike, we have to take that [delay] into consideration.

“When facts change, opinions change. So if facts change for the worse, the deadline is going to change. If the facts change for the better, the deadline will remain in place. If we have an issue with COVID-19, then that deadline will be in jeopardy like anything else. But when that [information] comes out, we will have to recalibrate again.”

JFF General Secretary Dalton Wint said they are keeping an eye on the spike in local cases and are cautiously optimistic the start of the 2020-2021 football season will get under way as proposed.

“It is not up to us to decide if the season goes ahead,” Wint said. “It is up to the Government to make that determination and we are cautiously optimistic that they will keep this under control for us to honour our date. If not, we have to make the adjustment. Football is our business and safety is paramount in everything we do.”

Jamaica registered 30 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, bringing the total at that time to 958, with 12 deaths and now members of the sporting community are anticipating tighter COVID-19 restrictions by the Government to help contain the spread of the virus.

Speid says this is more reason not to be hasty in the restart.

“I can’t see why anyone would be rushing to play football again when we clearly don’t have this under control,” he said.

“There could be a case for professional football, but can you imagine amateur football, where every time you play, you have to go into a crowd with other persons? That is dangerous. We don’t want football to be a vehicle spreading COVID-19 and causing people’s lives. We don’t want to be a part of that.”