By Gregory Bryce
It seems Santa Claus will not be giving the local football fans any presents this year as the chances of the Red Stripe Premier League (RSPL) kicking off in 2020 have all but faded.
The league had been suspended – and later cancelled – earlier this March after the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus. The organizers had first been hopeful for a restart in June to play out the remaining games but those plans were scrapped as the number of positive cases continued to rise.
There had been concrete plans to kick off the 2020/21 season this year, and everything seemed to be running smoothly. The funds were said to be available to properly compensate the teams after the break in play. Added to the promise that over 600 persons would be tested before the league started, it seemed the RSPL was destined for a 2020 return.
But those plans were for November 14.
It is now December 11, and as of now, there has been no news of continual COVID-19 testing of the players nor have any matches been played so far.
So, what happened?
Well, the answer to that lies with the RSPL, which, at this point, is still awaiting approval from the Ministry of Health to start the league, despite being previously confident of a November date.
In one of my previous articles, I had stated that I was confident that the RSPL would not return until 2021, but I had thought I was going to be proven wrong when the announcement came that the league would resume in November. It seems that was simply wishful thinking on the part of the league organizers.
The parties that stand to suffer from the inaction are the 12 teams in the top flight.
Tivoli Gardens FC was probably the team that anticipated a restart the most, after they had confirmed that the team was unable to pay the wages of their players and had to cut their squad to make sure they could stay afloat.
Now, Phillip Williams, the head coach of Tivoli, says that they have been forced to stop training indefinitely, as it is just not possible for the team to do so at this point.
“We stopped training about two weeks now. We have stopped training for more than one reason, but it is all based on the uncertainty of the league and the news that it (league) wasn’t going to be played until 2021,” said Williams. “The break was basically a forced break, which was accompanied by a lot of reasons, some because of the uncertainty, and others due to natural reasons in terms of sustaining preparation for players.”
Unlike Tivoli however, Humble Lions have said that they have the means to continue training, even though the club is struggling financially right now. Their players will be doing virtual training for the time being until a definite date for the league’s restart is announced.
In my honest opinion, I find it hard to imagine the league restarting any time soon, and if I were to estimate, I’d say the earliest possible date for the RSPL to return will be in March of 2021 – ironically, a full year after it had been cancelled.
Gregory Bryce is a freelance sports journalist.
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