Stakeholders pledge continued support of Red Stripe Premier League

BY SHERDON COWAN
Observer staff reporter
cowans@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, September 22, 2017

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After a three-week delay, the 2017-18 season of the Red Stripe Premier League (RSPL) was finally launched yesterday with various stakeholders pledging their continued commitment to making this season one of the best yet, with the ultimate goal of aiding Jamaica's football development.

The country's most prestigious league will now get under way on Sunday, after the previous start date of September 3 was altered due to an impasse involving the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF), the Premier League Clubs Association (PLCA) and Montego Bay United (MBU).

However, despite the lengthy postponement, Michelle Cunningham, Assistant Brand Manager of title sponsors Red Stripe, said they were not perturbed.

In the same breath, Cunningham expressed pleasure that good sense has prevailed among the relevant parties.

“We are not bothered; the show must go on and we are happy that all the associations have come to that common point and they have commenced the thought process of how we can make this league even greater.

“So we are happy for the start, we have been anticipating it and the fans have been anticipating it, so I am sure there will be some exciting match-ups for us this season,” Cunningham told the Jamaica Observer at the JFF headquarters yesterday.

Along with the reinforcement of their Player Development Programme (PDP), Cunningham explained that the beer brand will be promoting a new initiative dubbed 'Adopt a field/Club' to increase their marketability.

“Although we normally do player development, we want to do it with a twist this season. We want to hear from the players themselves as to what they think will help make that workshop better.

“We are also looking to start an advocacy programme where we appeal to corporate Jamaica heads of industries to join the 'Adopt a field' programme. This is basically to see how we can as Jamaicans and as corporate bodies, promote football by adopting a field and adopting a club and just ensuring their growth and their development,” she stated.

Approximately 70 players and coaches are set to benefit from the Red Stripe Player Development Programme, which will take place in February.

“The goal at the end of the season is that we would have changed this league to become even better. We would have assisted in growing the players and put Jamaica's football again in the spotlight in a major way to show that our players can go out there and compete on a national and international level,” Cunningham noted.

Meanwhile, Simone Clarke-Cooper, the group communications assistant vice-president of Supreme Ventures Limited, reaffirmed her firm's commitment to the nation's top-flight league to the tune of $10 million through its JustBet brand.

“This investment is our commitment to football in Jamaica, which is the game of choice and a source of great passion, which is what JustBet is all about. Our relationship with the Red Stripe Premier League remains strong and firm and we know it will get even better, as most relationships do in time,” Clarke-Cooper declared.

“Our sponsorship shows that we are in full support of the PLCA's mission to continue striving for excellence and aiming for the highest level even in the face of adversity,” she added.

With that said, Clarke-Cooper further stated that their main sponsorship will be complemented by an additional $1.2 million, which will see the Gaming and Lottery Company, being the group insurance sponsors for the league's 12 participating clubs.

“We know that adversity often comes for players in the league in the form of injury and that adversity is often compounded by the fact that injury doesn't only take them out of the game, but costs them out of their pockets.

“We see this commitment as a huge step in the development of the sport and of great benefit to its players and to the league overall. We know that this support will go a far way in ensuring the success of the event and we are happy to play our part in giving fans the excitement and entertainment for which the Premier League has been known,” Clarke-Cooper noted.

The league will kick off with four games on Sunday, followed by the flagship Monday night games, which will feature defending champions Arnett Gardens and beaten finalists Portmore United against promoted outfits Sandals South Coast FC and Cavalier SC, respectively.

Don Anderson, chairman of the Professional Football Association of Jamaica (PFAJ), described as painful the manner in which the league was halted, but that he was now pleased that proceedings are set to get under way.

“I am happy that we were able to sort it out and we are able to start the league as we now are about to do on September 24. It has been a painful experience, but we are now behind that and I know we have the commitment of everyone to make sure the league is run in the most professional manner this year,” he told reporters.

Newly elected JFF president Michael Ricketts outlined that a part of his mandate will be to ensure that an impasse of this nature does not recur.

“I'd really like to apologise to our sponsors for the delay and I can assure them that we will try our best to ensure that there is no such repetition to delay the start of our Premier League.

“This is our premier competition and we want to ensure that it is organised in the best possible way and the sponsors get as much mileage as they can. So I am very happy that all issues have been resolved and I do hope that we will have a very fruitful and productive competition.”

Edward Seaga, chairman of the PLCA, and president of the Tivoli Gardens Football Club, encouraged other clubs to follow his lead in addressing the longstanding problem of the quality of their playing field.

He explained that having commenced work on the West Kingston field named in his honour, the process should not cost more than $2 million.

“I, myself, was induced to think that this would be a very expensive exercise, but I have taken the lead by uprooting the entire field at Tivoli Gardens, from the soil right down to the base and we have replaced it with new soil, sand and an irrigation system with green grass growing very happily,” the former prime minister stated.

He continued: “That will be ready and available foreseeing the result on October 2, if no hurricane comes here. At the same time I am saying this that other fields that are in need of renovation may have thought it was a very expensive process, believe me, it is not; between $1 milion and $2 million can do the job.

“For those fields that do need this, I would hope that they will undertake this exercise during the course of this year so that going forward we will have top -quality football fields on which to play football.”

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