By Gregory Bryce
Just like the main character in the last moments of a movie, the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) has swooped in to save the day, it seems. Previously, I had spoken about the apparent crumbling of the Red Stripe Premier League (RSPL) and the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the various clubs.
At the core of the issue, the financial restraints from the lack of any football activity seems to have taken a massive toll on the clubs, with many having to cut the size of their squads due to the inability to pay their players. It was a dire state for our national league, and without any concrete plans being put in place, there looked to be no end.
At least, that was the situation until the JFF announced recently their plans to start the new season of the RSPL.
I will be the first to say that I was wrong. I had previously stated that the RSPL would not return until – at the earliest – 2021. The JFF, however, revealed plans to restart the competition on November 14. The competition will run until a proposed end date of June 20, 2021.
President of the JFF, Michael Ricketts, stated that to ease the return of the league, approximately 600 persons will be tested for the COVID-19 virus starting Monday, and will be retested a second time before the November 14 start date.
Reading through the bare bones of the plans that the JFF has facilitated, it is clear that they will be doing their utmost best to ensure the safety of the players, coaching staff and referees who will be at risk during the season. Along with that, Ricketts also announced that there will be changes to the format of the league.
Normally, the RSPL would have had three rounds of matches in the regular season before advancing to the play-offs. In the new format, only two rounds of matches will be played in the regular season before advancing to the play-offs. Along with these new changes, matches will be played in specific locations in accordance with the Ministry of Health & Wellness which will decide if fans will be allowed in the stands.
Not only that, but for the next two seasons of the RSPL, there will be no relegations. Instead, two teams will be added each year as a way to expand the number of teams from 12 to 16, by 2022.
As a personal fan of the RSPL, I am happy to see the changes being made by the JFF in order to facilitate an enjoyable and efficient running of the league.
But while this is so, there are still financial concerns by the clubs.
With the matches being slated to be played in specific locations, and the admittance of fans to be decided by the Ministry of Health, clubs are still expected to suffer from a lack of funds due to no gate receipts or products sold. We should also take into account the prediction of the chairman of the technical committee for the JFF, Rudolph Speid, of a 25%-30% increase in yearly expenditures for each club.
“Everybody will have it hard. We need help,” Speid said, as quoted by the Gleaner. “Every time you test the 30 to 40 players, you are talking $400,000, and we are sure we will not have to do this one time, so you can do the numbers.
“Some might have two sessions a day and might have to give some individuals assistance. So, there are some costs that you cannot put a handle on, but if you ask me to guess, I would say maybe a $5 million more or 25 to 30 percent more.”
Well, the JFF has also proposed a solution for that.
Ricketts says that the JFF will be providing compensation for each club as a form of COVID-19 relief to help support their operations due to the football inactivity. An estimate of $1.2 million dollars will be given to each club to help cover the cost of operations. This money will be supplied from the $35.5 million dollars that was given to the JFF from FIFA as a way to see to the league’s return and cover expenditures.
I, for one, am happy to see the plans being put into place to restart the RSPL and, barring any major disruptions, it should be a smooth process going forwards.
Gregory Bryce is a freelance sports journalist.
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