$12m boost for St James' football
Football in western Jamaica, and St James in particular, received a huge boost yesterday when telecommunications giant's Claro officially assumed sponsorship of the parish's Senior League and Division One competitions to the tune of $12 million over a four-year period.
The sponsorship deal will result in prize money being paid to the top eight teams in both competitions, as opposed to the customary top four teams. The burden of paying the referees' fees will also be lifted from the clubs. Payment will now be made by the St James Football Association.
St James currently has no representation in the premier league, with only Village United representing the western region of the island. This has been due mainly to the decline of football at the parish level, according to Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) president, Captain Horace Burrell, who was speaking at the press launch of the sponsorship deal held at the JFF's head office.
"I have been very concerned with the lack of football development in western Jamaica in recent times, and more so in St James," said Burrell. "The main cry has been about lack of funds and not having sponsorship for their major league competition, and this was making it very difficult for them to operate administratively and otherwise, and so you could notice that there was a general retardation in the standard of football in the west," he added.
Burrell believes that the injection of cash by Claro will enable the St James FA to improve its administration and technical competence.
George Evans, president of St James FA, shares Burrell's optimism that St James will once again, in the near future, be represented in the premier league.
"It (sponsorship deal) will help in rebranding St James football and aid us in our efforts to get players and clubs coming back to the fold and, hopefully, through all of this we will have one team in the near future back in the premier league," said Evans.
Latoy Williams, marketing officer of Claro, promised a lot of excitement for the season, which begins this Saturday.
"There are a lot of things to look forward to, and I am encouraging everyone to come out to the kick-off match on Saturday," said Williams.
The parish league will commence with a double-header at Jarett Park.