Sat | Sep 18, 2021

‘We are professionals too’ - Fitzgerald blasts Government for double standard against Premier League

Published:Sunday | February 21, 2021 | 12:23 AMLivingston Scott - Sunday Gleaner Writer
Fitzgerald
Fitzgerald

Veteran Premier League coach, Calvert Fitzgerald, is hitting out at the Jamaican Government for what he described as a double standard with local top-flight football still pending, as the authorities mull a return of sports, amid rising coronavirus...

Veteran Premier League coach, Calvert Fitzgerald, is hitting out at the Jamaican Government for what he described as a double standard with local top-flight football still pending, as the authorities mull a return of sports, amid rising coronavirus cases in the island.

Several stakeholders, including the Jamaica Football Federation and the Professional Football Jamaica Limited (PFJL) - organisers of the Jamaica Premier League, which has been suspended since last March, met with Minister of Sport, Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange, on Friday to discuss the way forward for the resumption of the Jamaica Premier League and the national programme.

During the meeting, PFJL Chairman Christopher Williams underlined the clubs’ commitment to adhering to the Government’s restrictions, while Director Donovan White noted that the organisation was fully prepared to get going, once approval is granted.

Fitzgerald, who currently coaches Molynes United, has grown impatient and argued that if other professionals are being allowed to continue going to work on a daily basis, then the Jamaica Premier League, as a professional entity, should be given the same consideration and allowed to resume.

“With the proper protocols, the league can be played. What we are asking for is not the total return of football, just the Premier League, because that is the professional side of football in Jamaica,” Fitzgerald reasoned.

“The Premier League is actually a business where people are employed for football, groundsmen, physios, doctors, coaches, players, in order to get a team out on the field. So I think the Premier League should be considered as any other profession. Just like how you have your nurses, mechanics and other business people still going to work, I think our professionals in the Premier League should be seen in that light,” added Fitzgerald, who has helped to guide some of the island’s top players throughout his career.

Stricter safety protocols

Efforts to get a response from Grange and Jamaica Employers’ Federation President David Wan were unsuccessful.

Nevertheless, although training has been suspended, Fitzgerald argued that Premier League clubs usually observed stricter safety protocols than what he has seen in many business operations and as a result does not think football presents any greater risk.

He noted that at each training session, players’ temperatures are checked and recorded, adding that there are sanitising stations around the facilities and that equipment is also constantly sanitised. Players, he shared, are also assigned personal training equipment, while masks are worn at all times except when engaged in physical activities.

“The window is closing very fast because Concacaf has a June cut-off date for all leagues in the confederation to be completed. So the longer it takes, the smaller the window gets. We might just end up playing a truncated version of the Premier League and we will play a lot less games if this continues much longer, if anything is played at all,” he said.

Meanwhile, in a recent Gleaner column, Dr Akshai Mansingh, dean of the Faculty of Sports at The University of the West Indies, labelled football, netball and basketball as high-risk sports in the context of the pandemic, given the players’ proximity to each other.

He posited that only through a biosecure bubble, which our league is unable to afford, or by regular testing, which has its shortcomings, will competitions for these sports be possible.

The Premier League season was cancelled and declared null and void last May after the spread of the coronavirus disease in Jamaica.

livingston.scott@gleanerjm.com