Who has the bigger balls?
The whole football world is watching. The case is unprecedented. Jermaine Hue was banned after testing positive last year in Honduras after taking something given to him by team doctor Carlton Frazer. He was out for nine months, not collecting any money from the sport, and had asked the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) to assist with his finances during that time. The JFF had refused.
On the surface, it appeared harsh from the local governing body. Hue's request was only fair. He was being made to suffer financial losses through no fault of his own and it appeared only reasonable that the JFF sought to compensate him since it was their doctor who fouled up.
But it's not as cut and dry as it sounds. The JFF was stuck between a rock and a hard place. They knew Hue's request was not unreasonable, but the JFF couldn't be seen to be compensating a player after the powerful FIFA imposed a ban.
That's like a principal expelling a student from school, and the teachers coming together to give him free classes after school on the same compound. Whatever the teachers feel about the expulsion, it's not the thing to do. If the JFF had compensated Hue, the subtle message to FIFA could be that "we thought your ban was harsh and excessive".
For obvious reasons, the JFF can't be in FIFA's bad books like that and expect to benefit from any FIFA-related programme. So the JFF, whether or not it wanted to, felt that it had to steer clear of any monetary compensation for Jermaine Hue.
Jermaine and his legal team have now taken it further. They are suing the JFF for, among other things, negligence on the part of the JFF and its agents. Jermaine knows that this will surely end his football career at the national level, but at his age, he probably felt his international career was over anyway, with his club career also on its last hurrah. As far as Hue is concerned, he really has nothing to lose.
The JFF is not amused, and it has given the talented midfielder 48 hours to withdraw his threat to sue. The 'or else' wasn't stated, but it didn't need to. According to the JFF, the player has other channels to settle grievances, and based on contracts which he himself has signed, going to the local courts is not one of them.
Deadline up today
That 48-hour deadline will be up sometime today. Hue's lawyers have already spoken publicly that the case will be settled in the Supreme Court, which means a withdrawal is unlikely. The JFF, in all likelihood, will now have to refer the matter to its own disciplinary committee. FIFA must be watching with keen interest. What is that 'or else' which was implied? If Hue sticks to his guns and doesn't withdraw, what is the JFF's next move?
One source told me that, if Hue carries out his intent to sue FIFA, he may never be allowed to play football again. Big deal, you may say. For one who is on the wrong side of 30, this could also affect any plans he may have to coach or manage in the future. Clearly, Hue is prepared to take that chance.
It would be interesting to see how a local court would rule on something like this. The JFF says Hue, like all other national players, signed a contract which prevents him from seeking redress in the local courts, and that he must exhaust the options open to him in the sporting world. That includes going to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. That, however, is not a cheap option and would cost Hue far more than what he is seeking to recover! So from a practical and economic perspective, that makes no sense.
But what about that contract itself? It seems that Hue's legal team is prepared to argue that such a contract between JFF and the national players ought to be examined, and that there might be flaws in it, whatever the JFF or FIFA might think. As one lawyer said to me yesterday, no contract can be valid that denies a person his constitutional rights, and that Jermaine Hue, as a Jamaican, has a right to take up ANY MATTER in the Jamaican courts.
So where will this landmark case go and what are the implications if a local court should rule that the JFF should indeed compensate Hue? The case may seem to be a minor one between Hue and the JFF. In essence, it could be a fight between FIFA and a local court. This is huge. Both these entities may feel that they are more powerful than each other. This will be interesting.
Orville Higgins is a sports journalist and talk-show journalist. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.