‘We’re lagging!’ - Speid, White raise concerns about impasse regarding start of National Premier League
Jamaica Football Federation Technical Committee Chairman Rudolph Speid says that the absence of local football and its lack of professionalism is causing the country to regress internationally.
Speid was speaking at a Gleaner’s Editors Forum yesterday which addressed issues regarding the National Premier League, the role of the Professional Football Jamaica Limited (PFJL), the new body responsible for the marketing of the league, in meeting those goals, and the challenges affecting the 2020-21 season.
Jamaica’s top-flight competition continues to experience delays in its return to action as organisers have not received approval from the Ministry of Health and Wellness (MOHW) on COVID-19 protocols. The previous season was suspended in March and subsequently cancelled because of the pandemic. With the exception of the Concacaf League quarter-final game between Waterhouse FC and Arcahaie FC, which was played on November 5, local football has been inactive for eight months.
Speid says with a majority of leagues around the world restarting, the prolonged hiatus is negatively affecting the progress of the sport at all levels.
“Most countries have moved on,” he said. “They understand the pandemic more and they have moved on and restarted sports, so we are lagging behind.”
The major European leagues and competitions, with the exception of the French domestic league, managed to finish their previous campaigns after restarting their seasons in July. All 2020-21 campaigns kicked off in September, with limited to no fans in attendance.
Speid said if the country does not begin to take a business approach in all decisions regarding football, improvements cannot be guaranteed.
PROFESSIONALISING LOCAL FOOTBALL
“Right now, we are behind the world in sports because sports are not seen as an industry in Jamaica,” he said. “It is seen as recreation. People don’t understand how sports is to a society and, until that is understood, we are always going to be struggling.”
PFJL board member Donovan White says that in working towards professionalising local football, he sees the Government playing a crucial role in bringing local football to a professional standard.
“The clubs that play football almost right across Jamaica are community-based clubs with some amount of private investment, private partnership, and so on, but they are largely community-based clubs,” White said. “And so, from that perspective, we feel that there’s a social opportunity for the Government to play a significant role in terms of transforming these clubs into professional entities and providing the necessary impetus required to bring them to standards that can be likened to a professional entity.”
White says infrastructure is the most costly portion of the professional development, but meetings are being finalised with the minister of sport to pitch proposals for how to take the league into its new direction.