By Gregory Bryce
It really is starting to feel like a case of beating a dead horse when it comes to the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) as they seem to have stumbled into yet another blunder within the past few days. This comes after the news that the JFF was essentially given a ‘cease-and-desist’ order from the Sport Minister Olivia Grange, after a crop of positive COVID-19 results from the camp.
In the letter sent to the president of the JFF, Michael Ricketts, Grange wrote,
“We are now in receipt of the application for hosting the training camp to commence tomorrow, February 6, 2021 which was dated February 4, 2021. Please note that training cannot commence without the approval of the Director General, Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), with the Ministry of Health and Wellness advising that there is no breach and it is safe to resume. Therefore, there can be no training today or tomorrow and not until approval has been given.”
The government had recently announced that sporting activities would be allowed to resume on the island under a case-by-case review with the conditions that proper medical protocols were observed and no fans allowed in proximity of the games.
The JFF, seeing an opportunity to host a well overdue training camp for the local players, has correctly sought the permission of the government for approval to host the camp.
However, where the JFF blundered based on the content of Minister Grange’s letter is that they had not waited for the approval, and had instead gone ahead with the camp without the approval from the appropriate bodies.
To make matters worse, this all came within the context of Jamaica recording its highest number of positive COVID-19 cases within the span of a week, with 403 new cases on Monday alone.
As a result, Grange sought it appropriate to shut down the camp and instructed that all the players and coaching staff who took part in the camp should remain at the facility to reduce the possible spread of the virus – which the JFF failed to do as they have reported that the players were allowed to leave.
It really does not look good for the JFF at the moment, and there are questions that should be asked regarding the planning process that went into the execution of the training camp.
A source inside the JFF spoke to the Gleaner anonymously and sought to explain their side of the situation.
They admitted that while they had started the camp before getting the approval of the government, they had assumed that they were in the right to do so after the Ministry of Health had already approved previous camps and were not aware that they were obligated to reapply for approval again.
“The minister of health gave us permission to train, so the JFF thought they could train,” the source said to Gleaner Sports. “So they only informed them (the Government) that they were training, as they didn’t know they had to reapply.”
On the situation of players being allowed to leave after Minister Grange had said that all the participants were to remain at the facility to reduce the spread of the virus, the source explained that there were only two players that had tested positive, while the other players who were tested negative were allowed to leave.
“When the players stopped training, they got frustrated because they were cooped up in a building and not training, so they left and went back home. Only the (two COVID-19 positive) players were quarantined and are still in camp. The others did their tests and it returned negative and they have gone home.”
Whether the fault is to be laid at the feet of the JFF, the government or the ineffective communication between the various organizations involved, it is clear that this situation will cause a big setback for plans of resuming sporting events under limited conditions. Already calls are being made to hold back on that decision and to enforce the cancellations of all sports.
Gregory Bryce is a freelance sports journalist.
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