Refs ready for RSPL return
Despite being concerned about the indiscipline of some players and the potential threat that may pose, manager of the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) referees department, Victor Stewart, said local referees and match officials are ready to take the field for the new bubble-style Red Stripe Premier League (RSPL) campaign.
Domestic football was cancelled in March due to the local spread of the coronavirus disease, but stakeholders have been discussing a return for later this year, which would see all players, officials, production personnel and other relevant individuals operating in a secure environment for the duration of the season to limit the chance of exposure to the virus. This method has been used in several international competitions, such as the MLS, NBA and during the ongoing England cricket series, which also included the West Indies team.
Stewart outlined that match officials are eager to play their role in the sport’s return locally, and warned that they will not hesitate to enforce safety protocol and guidelines set out by the league organisers.
“Any activity that allows us to go back on the field to officiate we will welcome,” Stewart told The Gleaner. “We have to work with the situation, because the ideal situation does not exist under COVID-19. So the Premier League or any football being played in a controlled environment is good.”
“But the one thing that has dogged our football development is the indiscipline of players. It is not because of a lack of talent, know-how or willpower. The environment in which we operate is very unprofessional, so we are hoping the organisers lay down the ground rules and get in the personnel that would improve the operational protocols,” Stewart further shared.
NO PROTOCOL NO GAMES
The referee boss stressed that his team is prepared to prevent games from going ahead if protocols are not met.
“We will work with the match commissioner and the competition organisers to ensure all is in place. Of course we will apply the guidelines, so if we are at a match and the protocol is not being observed, then we have no choice but to not play the game if they (teams) don’t meet all the regulations. But once all is in place, we (officials) are good to go,” Stewart stated.
The National Stadium and Sabina Park are being targeted as the main venues for the competition.
Stewart believes that it is important to resume the competition, but underlines that each club’s management team needs to ensure that players and other representatives respect the regulations so that the safety of those involved is not compromised.