Can Powell sink Captain's ship?
Orville Powell's decision to challenge Captain Horace Burrell for the presidency of the JFF is the biggest sports story on the local sports circuit this week. In our subconscious, most of us have got accustomed to Burrell being in charge and have accepted this as the natural order of things.
Even if we expected a challenge, most football aficionados thought it would have come from one of the heavy hitters in the KSAFA region. It had long been expected, for example, that either Rudolph Speid or Ambassador Stewart Stephenson would at different times mount a challenge. Orville's decision to put himself up for the top job has certainly come as a surprise.
He has long been a man who isn't afraid to buck the trend. When he was at the forefront of the move to change Seba's name to 'Montego Bay United', he did receive opposition, but my namesake isn't one who is easily deterred. He had his own differences with his own club and at one point had even decided that he wouldn't be responsible for the day-to-day running of senior football matters.
Powell had once famously crossed swords with Edward Seaga himself, asking him to quit as chairman of the Premier League Clubs Association. Not too many people publicly criticise the former prime minister. His admirers like him for his independent mind and strident voice. His detractors say he is a mere rabble-rouser pandering to the media. Whatever it is, Orville Powell is no shrinking violet.
Football watchers in Jamaica say this is the right time to challenge Burrell. The current FIFA imbroglio has both hurt and helped Captain Burrell. It has hurt him because it's well known that he was once a close ally of Jack Warner and Jeffrey Webb.
But Captain Burrell has managed to come out unscathed. His supporters will tell you that if the powers that be had anything on him at all, he couldn't escape the long arm of the US law-enforcement agencies. Captain's detractors were hoping that he, too, would be tainted, as it would certainly end his administrative career. Captain Burrell, on this score, has had the last laugh.
At this point, it's difficult to tell how credible a candidate Orville Powell is. He will need at least four parish associations to nominate him before he becomes a bona fide candidate. Having spoken to Orville on radio twice since this story broke, I am not convinced he has yet to establish where those four votes are coming from. He is in campaign mode, but the fact that he seems to be targeting all the parish associations, when at this stage he really doesn't need to, tells me that he hasn't yet narrowed down his support base. In fishing terms, he is net fishing as opposed to line fishing, and that may suggest that he is at this stage going for broke with absolutely nothing to lose.
Word on the street is that Powell may well have two of the western parishes behind his bid. People in the know feel that KSAFA may - and I stress, may - also back his bid because the perception has long been that Captain Burrell doesn't always see eye to eye with people in the Kingston and St Andrew region. So that could mean three of the four that he needs. Where will the other come from, if indeed, it does come?
With only 13 parish associations to convince as opposed to 105 delegates a few months ago, theoretically, it does make Powell's job easier. Where he would have needed 50-odd votes a year ago, now he needs fewer than 10.
I put the question to Orville on radio that it has long been accepted that part of the delegates' loyalty to Burrell was the fact that he sponsors a lot of the parish associations, and that he has demonstrated that he cares by his willingness to put his money where his mouth is.
I went further and pointed out to my namesake that elections are usually expensive things. His answer was classic. "If Captain Burrell usually spends a million dollars, now he will have to spend two." He was clearly indicating that he isn't coming to the table from a position of poverty.
This fight, then, will be exciting. Come next Thursday at nomination time, Orville Powell will either be seen as a really big name in football or one who had badly misread the local landscape. I can't wait.
- Orville Higgins is a sportscaster and talk-show host at KLAS ESPN Sports FM. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.