Wed | Nov 25, 2020

Fear stalling football players’ union

Published:Friday | November 20, 2020 | 12:11 AMLennox Aldred/Gleaner Writer
Tivoli Gardens’ Newton Sterling (front) in an aerial duel with Dunbeholden’s Andre Pryce during a National Premier League game at the Edward Seaga Sports Complex on Sunday, October 20, 2019.
Tivoli Gardens’ Newton Sterling (front) in an aerial duel with Dunbeholden’s Andre Pryce during a National Premier League game at the Edward Seaga Sports Complex on Sunday, October 20, 2019.

Friends of Football player representative and Tivoli Gardens striker Newton Sterling says the entity, which is seeking to become the official players union for local footballers, has been receiving pushback from some clubs and players who are reluctant to be a part of the membership, for fear of being ostracised.

Sterling was speaking during a virtual Gleaner Editors Forum on the Future of Club Football yesterday, and said that, while Dunbeholden, Cavalier and Humble Lion have given the group a listening ear, former champions Arnett Gardens were reluctant.

“When we reached out to some clubs, Arnett Gardens sent a message that their lawyers have advised them to tell the players not to speak with no union rep,” Sterling said.

The Gleaner sought contact with Arnett Gardens Football Club for a response to Sterling’s claim, but calls to president Mark Golding and head coach Alex Thomas’ phones went unanswered.

Sterling, who says he attempted to start a similar union with former Waterhouse goalkeeper Richard McCullum and former Harbour View midfielder Richard Edwards in 2009, says the players deserve better treatment and representation, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I am trying to convince these players a union is needed,” he said. “If they had a union, I think they would be fine now. When I do my research worldwide, the union is helping players.”

Kingston and St Andrew Football Association (KSAFA) General Secretary Dwayne Dillon and Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) Technical Committee Chairman Rudolph Speid shared Sterling’s sentiments.

“From the KSAFA perspective, we wholeheartedly support the move. I would go even further to say that we would encourage, at the JFF level, for them to be given a seat at the table as an important stakeholder,” Dillon said.

“I agree that we need a coaches’ union, we need players’ union,” Speid said. “From a JFF point of view, we have no problem with it, we actually encourage it in the new dispensation.”

Sterling said that issues such as lack of insurance and players being laid off in the pandemic are some of the critical components the union can address, as he believes the players are at the mercy of the clubs who sometimes ignore their welfare.

Professional Football Jamaica Commercial Committee Chairman Donovan White says that a framework needs to be put in place to provide greater consultation by all stakeholders on the matter of unionisation.

While admitting that the process will take time, White does not see why the 12 clubs that form the only professional league in the country would have any objections.

“The work has started in terms of moving us to the next level of professionalism,” White said. “It will take us time to get to where some other parts of the world are. We are not going to fool ourselves in thinking that we are going to switch this on now and next month or next year things will be hunky-dory and perfect.”