LeVaughn Flynn, Staff Reporter
THE JAMAICA Football Referees Association (JFRA) scored a
golden goal on Thursday after acquiring its first sponsorship deal.
Palm Rose Ltd. and Wisynco Trading broke the rules of corporate sponsorship by providing a $1.5 million two-year package to the JFRA. It includes 2000 shirts and flags for the 500 referees islandwide that are affiliated with the JFRA.
General secretary of the referees association, Dave Meikle, made the announcement on Thursday at a press briefing at the Jamaica Football Federation's office in Kingston. In a job where the officials endure major verbal and sometimes physical, harassment, the referees were overly appreciative to the sponsors.
President of the JFRA, Peter Prendergast, called the sponsorship the first step in the Association's development crusade.
"This sponsorship is the cornerstone of things to come as the JFRA moves towards professionalism," Prendergast stated.
"We are the only country in the world whose referees from entry level to World Cup level have an equipment sponsor."
In previous years, referees would bear the cost of their full uniforms inclusive of socks and shoes which cost about $6,000. The shirts provided by the sponsors will help to offset the overall cost.
Each referee will get four shirts embellished with the sponsors' products: Bigga, Ocean Spray, PowerMax and Soyfresh. The shirts will also bear the code of the confederation the referee belongs (EC eastern confederation, WC western confederation, etc.) along with a personalised number. Persons can record this code to compliment or criticise a referee's job to the JFRA.
"Our obligation to the sport is a major one," Prendergast stated. "We are responsible not only for the players on the field but those on the bench and the thousands of fans in the stands."
The 54-year old association has come a long way without corporate help. It has produced world class referees such as Paulette Riley, Owen Powell and Prendergast.
In November, Riley became the first female referee from the Caribbean to officiate in the final of a world competition. Riley ran the lines of the women's Under-19 final in Thailand.
Powell made his international debut at the 1998 World Cup and Prendergast stood in the middle of several top flight matches at the 2002 World Cup.
Between February 12-16, Prendergast will attend a FIFA referee workshop in Germany with 45 other referees for a selection process for next year's World Cup. Prendergast is one of six referees from CONCACAF attending the workshop. Four will be selected from CONCACAF to join the final 36 officials.