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EDITORIAL - MoBay United FC should play ball

Published:Tuesday | September 9, 2014 | 9:00 AM

We are not in possession of all the facts and are, therefore, not in a position to declare on the veracity of the claims and counterarguments that threaten to derail this season's National Premier League football competition that is run by the Premier League Clubs Association (PLCA).

But this newspaper stands by a fundamental principle, which it demands of institutions that claim to operate in the interest of the public and on whose support and trust they rely for their existence: that they are transparent in their operations and adhere to precepts of good governance.

It is against that backdrop that we urge the PLCA and its constituent parts, the clubs, to frankly discuss and resolve their issues of dispute in the larger interest of football.

Indeed, we sense the PLCA and its clubs are on this path, which is why we urge the Montego Bay United Football Club (MBUFC), the defending champions, to end their boycott of the competition, pending a major meeting of the association later this month, lest they risk doing long-term, if not permanent, damage to Jamaica's football.

The PLCA, which is made up Jamaica's top football clubs, has for seven years run the island's most significant football competition, very much in the manner of the English Premier League, having wrested its management from the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF). The PLCA has brought significant sponsorship money to the league - certainly more than when it was under the administration of the JFF.

For those seven years, the PLCA has been under the chairmanship of Edward Seaga, the former Jamaican prime minister, who is also president of the Tivoli Gardens Football Club, based in his former West Kingston parliamentary constituency.

Criticism of Mr Seaga has, however, recently emerged, or at least become public. A number of clubs, of which MBUFC and their management are the most vocal, claim that Mr Seaga's job has never been open to competition; and that there have been neither formal annual general meetings nor audited accounts. Further, they complain of a failure to regularise the ownership of the PLCA since its initial registration with Mr Seaga as its sole director and apparent nominee shareholder.

Mr Seaga has countered these arguments with claims that they represent the sniping of people who would like to return the management of the league to the JFF, the unstated implication of which is bolstering the power of JFF President Horace Burrell. He also disputes the absence of up-to-date financial statements.

This dispute emerged in the aftermath of Mr Seaga's apparent change of heart in his own intention to withdraw Tivoli from the competition because of inadequate financing, which was interpreted in some quarters as a stunt to entice sponsors to his club. If he had followed through on that threat, Mr Seaga would, on the face of it, have automatically forfeited his role as a PLCA director.

Whatever the cause of this controversy, there are a number of important things to note, not least the fact that football is the most popular sport in Jamaica and those who follow it, whether as players or fans, consider themselves part of a global family.

Second, football has demonstrated its capacity as a unifying force in Jamaica. Those who manage the sport do so not on their own cognisance, but on behalf of the rest of us.

The opinions on this page, except for the above, do not necessarily reflect the views of The Gleaner. To respond to a Gleaner editorial, email us: editor@gleanerjm.com or fax: 922-6223. Responses should be no longer than 400 words. Not all responses will be published.