Tue | Oct 20, 2020

Bubble trouble - RSPL players weigh up implications of a biosecure league amid pandemic

Published:Monday | September 14, 2020 | 12:11 AMLivingston Scott/Gleaner Writer
Mount Pleasant FA’s Kemar Beckford (on ground) challenges UWI FC’s Stephen Barnett for an aerial ball during a Red Stripe Premier League game at Drax Hall in St Ann on Sunday, March 31.
Mount Pleasant FA’s Kemar Beckford (on ground) challenges UWI FC’s Stephen Barnett for an aerial ball during a Red Stripe Premier League game at Drax Hall in St Ann on Sunday, March 31.
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Many Red Stripe Premier League (RSPL) players say they are comfortable with and willing to adhere to the changes being proposed for a biosecure league, which is tentatively set to begin in October or November. However, some believe that strict penalties should apply to clubs and players who violate safety protocols and endanger teammates and other match personnel.

No football has been played domestically since the Jamaica Football Federation cancelled last season on March 12 because of the coronavirus pandemic. But while leagues worldwide have restarted, the local federation has not yet got approval from the Ministry of Health and Wellness for the new RSPL season.

HEAVY PENALTIES

However, it is understood that stakeholders were in the process of signing off on a league to be played in a biosecure bubble with an adjusted format and strict safety protocols. Although Mount Pleasant striker Kemar Beckford says the authorities are approaching the restart to the league in the “right way”, he suggested that players and clubs found in breach of protocols should face heavy fines.

“They (organisers) will have to be serious so players understand and know that they should stay at home, be safe, and just go to training,” Beckford said. “They also need to test players and send in the information, so any player on any team that leaves and put themselves at risk to get the virus so other players and other teams might catch it, then the player and the club should get a big fine. So they need to sort this out so everyone know it’s a serious thing.”

Cavalier FC goalkeeper Jeadine White is confident that all will be in place for the players to feel comfortable and safe throughout the season.

“It is not something that I am too worried about where football is concerned,” he said. “I don’t think it affects how I go about football. But it would be best to get all players tested before the start of the competition and implement all the other necessary protocols.”

One of the main criteria for the league to be played is that no spectators will be allowed in the stands. Although Waterhouse FC usually have a large turnout at their home games at the Drewsland Stadium and would then be at a disadvantage, defender Shawn Lawes said the team would have to adjust. But he implored his colleagues to be disciplined and professional in how they handle the situation.

“Right across the world, football is playing without spectators now,” he said. “This is our job, so one way or another, we have to play. My only concern is players being disciplined and professional about the whole situation. So it is just for us to be professional and stay in as much as possible.”

livingston.scott@gleanerjm.com