JFF boss Ricketts says Concacaf's US$30,500 fine will hit where it hurts most

Deputy Sport Editor

Sunday, August 18, 2019

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The Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) knew there was no escaping sanctions regarding the withdrawal of its team to the Concacaf Under-15 Boys' Championship that ended in Florida recently.

Still, they hoped their faux pas would not come at a high price. But it has.

On Friday, the governing Concacaf wrote to the JFF informing it of the punitive action for pulling the Under-15 team from the biennial tournament at the proverbial last minute due to obvious administrative bungling in securing US visas for the players in time to travel for the August 4-11 championship at the IMG Academy campus in Brandenton.

As a result, the Michael Ricketts-led JFF is left holding the bag of a US$30, 500 ($4.1 million) fine.

It is understood that US$20,000 will apply for specific competition regulation breaches, while US$10,500 to recover expenses associated with hotel accommodation, and other related costs.

Ricketts, when reached by the Jamaica Observer yesterday, accepted the federation's fate and he was quick to take responsibility for what is seen as a big blunder on the part of his administration.

“We cannot afford to pay that sort of fine... we are a federation in debt and strapped for cash. We are not in a position to pay this sum. If we have to pay this money, it will certainly hit us where it hurts the most,” Ricketts said, confirming that the JFF was in receipt on Concacaf's letter of the sanction.

He said the JFF has no option but to appeal the extent of the fine, and where that fails, to find a payment mechanism that fits its financial situation.

“We know that one way or another we will have to pay something, but if we have to pay in full, the only way we could do that is to work out a payment plan with Concacaf. The fact of the matter is that we committed ourselves, so we have to deal with this... we have a commitment to and I want to be forthright, frank and transparent regarding this matter.

“We intend to exhaust the appeal process, and to have a closer look at the regulations governing the competition and to get expert interpretation to make sure we fully undertand them because we definitely don't have that kind of money when you look at all the programmes we have to run, plus a federation with staff and vendor commitments... we will definitely be talking with Concacaf and see how best we can come out of this situation,” Ricketts noted.

The JFF head has vowed that an investigation into the cock-up will be launched to establish the breakdown and culpability where it may apply.

“The fact, is we were negligent in this matter, so we have to deal with whatever consequence comes our way... but I must tell you that we intend to launch a deep and serious investigation as to what went wrong because obviously somebody fell down on the job, there was obviously a lapse and weakness somewhere for this to have happened,” Ricketts stated.

“Yes, we we were a little unfortunate in the situation that at the time we were due to have interviews at the US Embassy, it was the Jamaican Independence and the the embassy was short staff and so on.

“But I am not making an excuse because this tournament comes around every two years, therefore our planning should have been better... it is not all the time you can go to the embassy a couple of days before and get through, so we have to improve in these areas,” he added.

Ricketts admitted that the fiasco is not only a source of embarassment for the federation, but for him personally.

“I must tell you that I am personally embarrassed by this situation, and I am embarrassed for the federation, and we have to ensure that this doesn't happen again.

“As bad I feel, can you imagine the youngsters whose dreams would have been crushed by this situation, also the coaches who would have been disappointed,” Ricketts ended.

The Jamaica players, by not participating, would have lost a big opportunity to gain valuable experience and exposure, as they were scheduled to go up against Costa Rica, Barbados, and invited team Portugal.

“It's a very unfortunate situation, but hopefully, we'll be able to find something to substitute for what didn't happen and we're hopeful by the end of the year to announce something for these young boys.

“We are on track trying to see how best we can get some friendly games for these youngsters to participate, at least in a tournament, and the conversations have started,” JFF General Secretary Dalton Wint had said in the federation's immediate public reaction to the withdrawal and like sanctions.

The Concacaf Under-15 boys' tournament has been held every two years since 2013, and therefore, is a calendar event.

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