Put up or shut up
By Orville Higgins
Captain Horace Burrell has secured for himself another four-year term as president of the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF). He was unopposed, not for the first time, which doesn't necessarily mean that all possible contenders feel he is doing so good a job that they feel he deserves another term. It's more a case of the other potential challengers feeling as if they had no chance. The prevailing theory is that Captain Burrell has got the delegates so loyal to him because of his sponsorship of various parish associations, that anybody else who throws their hat in the ring would be soundly rejected.
From time to time, we hear whispers that Captain Burrell using his company to sponsor the various parish leagues is a serious case of conflict of interest. It's not true. A conflict of interest arises when an individual is involved in two or more interests, one of which will possibly corrupt the motivation to giving his best in the other. That is not the case here. Captain Burrell's interest as head of the JFF is to see football developing. His interest as a businessman is to see his company expanding. Using his company's name to help develop football seems more like a conveniently happy alliance than anything else to me. How these two interests are supposed to be 'conflicting' is beyond me.
Sure, it may give him an unfair advantage over would-be rivals. Sure, it may mean he has undue influence over delegates. But that should not be held against the man. A Member of Parliament (MP) who uses his own money to put on football competitions in his constituency, or to build basic schools, or pay school fees, will definitely have an advantage over challengers who are not prepared to match his spending. But can that MP be accused of being involved in any conflict of interest? How silly! The argument that nobody else will challenge because of this conflict of interest is hollow.
The problem with this theory is that all potential challengers are seemingly convinced that the delegates are all 'licky-licky' and can be bought for a widow's mite. That's like one potential MP refusing to run against a standing MP because he spends too much of his own money to win the constituents over!
Thank God our politics isn't like that. I happen to believe that the delegates in Jamaica are actually people who have football at heart. I have spoken to several of them. For the most part, they are decent, upstanding citizens. It is unfair to paint a picture of them as money-grabbing mercenaries who are prepared to sell votes for 30 pieces of silver!
Maybe the delegates are convinced that Captain Burrell is still the best man for the job. Maybe when they look around, they don't see anyone possessing his credentials. Maybe they don't see anyone with his contacts. Maybe they don't see anyone who garners the respect he does in the corporate world. Maybe they don't see anyone who enjoys his clout among players at all levels. And yes, maybe they don't see anyone who is as prepared as he is, to put his money where his mouth is.
Captain Burrell stated a few days ago that the delegates keep returning him because they think he is a hard-working boss who will stop at nothing to get things done. Translate that to mean that in the eyes of the delegates, they see some of these potential challengers as lazy, prepared to enjoy the perks of office, but not prepared for the long grind to get things done. Is that so far fetched? Even his biggest critics will agree that Captain Burrell's energy as it concerns football seems to be unwavering. How many of those who would want to unseat him have demonstrated that they are prepared to put in the hard yards the way he does?
Someone should step up
Rather than some of these football minds somehow trying to paint a picture of Captain Burrell as a villian who has used his money to hold an office for life, maybe somebody should put their hands up. Maybe somebody should present a manifesto of their plans for Jamaica's football, and show how they would get the financing to get things done.
Maybe then the delegates, and indeed, the rest of us, would take them seriously. Simply put, stop fraid a di man! Until then, as Captain Burrell so brazenly puts it, some of us may well feel that it's just "empty vessels making the most noise!"
Orville Higgins is a sports journalist and talk-show host on KLAS FM. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.