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Boyz, JFF smooth things over… for now

Thursday, June 06, 2019

WASHINGTON, DC, USA — Jamaica's senior men's footballers and the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) appeared to have come to some understanding after a stand-off here on Tuesday.

Following an early-morning meeting between the players' representatives Kemar Lawrence and captain Andre Blake, head of delegation Patrick Malcolm and team manager Roy Simpson at the Westin Hotel, the parties came away hopeful that at least some issues would have been addressed.

Even though the players are shooting for the resolution of a number of long-standing issues over the medium to long term, some short-term issues related to players' accommodation for a camp, leading up to their opening Concacaf Gold Cup in Kingston, and match fees were put on the table.

With regard to accommodation, the players refused the initial proposal by the federation that they be housed at the players' residence at Shortwood, St Andrew, and the dorms at the Captain Horace Burrell Centre of Excellence in Mona, where those facilities are said to be short of readiness for occupation.

Even though Malcolm, a board member of the JFF, was on site as a representative of the federation, the negotiations involved president Michael Ricketts, vice-president Bruce Gaynor and general secretary Dalton Wint, who are all in France attending the Fifa Congress and the Fifa Women's World Cup.

Through telephone links and e-mail communications, the parties went back and forth on offers and counter-offers until a common ground was seemingly reached.

But the players did not board the bus on their scheduled 4:30 pm (3:30 pm Jamaica time) departure to the Audi Field for the international friendly against hosts USA yesterday, as they awaited an e-mail from Wint that confirmed the JFF's agreement to the new terms and conditions.

Once that came, the players were quickly on the team bus, albeit 30 minutes later than planned.

“This morning (yesterday) I met with Andre Blake and Kemar Lawrence and the team manager Roy Simpson, and the players expressed their concerns and we had a discussion and we had a very fruitful meeting, I think.

“They were concerned about the technical centre, which they heard was not up to speed to house them, and we made it clear that they would not be going there nor the players' house, and that has fixed some areas.

“They were also concerned about the appearance fee for the game and that we had a long discussion on, and I think they are in a better position now and I am very confident that they will accept and we will move on from that,” Malcolm told the Jamaica Observer.

Observer sources say that the players were initially offered US$1,000 as an appearance fee for yesterday's match, a sum the players flatly refused, claiming that was comparatively inadequate.

The new figure was not immediately available yesterday.

“It's not just the money, but I think I speak for all the players when I say that you can't be playing against a Caribbean team and you are going home with the same money as you would be playing against the US, and that can't make sense. Just the same that a friendly game can't carry the same weight as a World Cup qualifier,” Blake told the Observer.

The Philadelphia Union goalkeeper says the differences between the players and the federation are broad-based issues related to the programme.

“At this point it is not just one thing, it's a bunch of things we are trying to address, and it's not just for us; it's about generations to come.

“A lot of the things are issues that have been going on for a while, and we are just trying to make a change. Maybe the time was not right, but we have to start at some point, and we decided why not now, but hopefully we can get everything ironed out so we can move forward,” he said.

Blake, 28, says the players deserve to be treated better, which is the cause that he and the leadership of the team are championing.

“This is the men's national senior team and we have to set standards and maintain those standards… there is stuff that is unacceptable, and if we continue to accept them, they will continue to be given to us, so again we have to take a stand, because when we go on the field and we don't get the results we get the blame and all of the trash talk directed at us.

“We are just trying to do stuff to put us in the best position to be successful, and if we are not, then the onus is on us and they can put pressure on us, but when the things are not in place, then you are setting us up to fail,” he asserted.

Blake thinks that more transparency is needed and the players are demanding a better flow of communication between his ranks and that of the hierarchy of the federation.

“All we want is honest, open communication and so we are trying to get stuff like that,” he ended.

— Sean Williams