KINGSTON, Jamaica – The Cash Plus Premier League, which turned one month old Tuesday, has been thrown into turmoil and uncertainty after the Jamaica Football Federation suspended Wednesday’s round of games.
General secretary of the JFF, Burchell Gibson, yesterday laid the blame squarely at the feet of the Premier League Clubs Association, a body chaired by former Prime Minister and president of the Tivoli Gardens Football Club, Edward Seaga, reports the Jamaica Gleaner
Gibson said the PLCA, whose board comprises an executive from each of the 12 Premier League clubs, was authorised to act on behalf of the JFF to negotiate sponsorship of the league, culminating in new sponsors Cash Plus Limited assuming title sponsorship from Wray and Nephew Limited.
However, Gibson said there has since been a “breakdown” in the agreement between the federation and the PLCA as it relates to com-munication and financial ar-rangements of the league to which Cash Plus Limited has committed $150 million over three years.
The JFF general secretary said these issues will have to be addressed by the incoming Horace Burrell administration, which is set to take office at this Sunday’s voting congress.
“I wish to state, to date, we have not received any monies for the operation of the 2007-2008 Cash Plus Premier League and the PLCA, which the JFF had directed to negotiate sponsorship on its behalf; we have not been getting any commitments from them,” he said. Gibson pointed out no financial commitment has been forthcoming from the PLCA and the current JFF administration is uncertain as to what is happening.
“Prior to the start of each season, administration costs would have been paid over to the JFF as was done with previous sponsor, Wray and Nephew,” Gibson said.
“The Premier League playing for nine months, has a budget for 12 months. Persons have been working and since the Wray and Nephew sponsorship was terminated, we have not received any money for the running of the league,” he said.
“We have been running the league without any money from the PLCA or the sponsor. We should have received some money before the start of the league. We are about to play round seven and we have not received any monies towards the administration of the league.”
However, Seaga painted an entirely different picture, saying the issue between the PLCA and the JFF did not warrant suspension of the league.
The former Prime Minister, who is never one to mince words, described Gibson as being “disgruntled and bad-minded”.
“The facts are that the JFF gave us an outlandish bill for $14 million as what they would expect us to pay them for work in administrating the league,” Seaga said.
“We said this was totally beyond anything we expected, let us sit and deal with it. The biggest chunk was for referees, which we took out and settled with the referees for half the amount of the bill the JFF gave us,” he said.
“The referees have been paid and know how they will be paid in the future. The rest was for administration costs of one sort or another, which, when we calculated, would be reduced by $2 million.
“We said to them, ‘Send us a thorough breakdown of the costs’, so we could both be satisfied. We got the breakdown but we have not met and it will require more than one meeting,” he said.
Seaga said the real issue was that the outgoing JFF ad-ministration owed money and wanted to settle its debts before demitting office and the PLCA was willing to assist by offering $1 million against a lease agreement for the ground floor of the federation’s New Kingston office.
“We decided we would pay them $1 million to dis-charge their obligations,” he said.
“We said we can’t do that against the budget presented. We had decided to rent the ground floor of the JFF office and whenever the rate, per square foot, was decided, we would draw the cheque for $1 million.
“However, that wasn’t satisfactory to him and he was still harping that we owed them. The JFF owes clubs almost $5 million,” Seaga pointed out.
“We asked them to put a time schedule to pay it out and it was obvious it would stretch into the new administration. It’s not the PLCA that owes the JFF money. If you net off the amount, they owe us much more than we owe them,” said the former Finance Minister.
Seaga said Gibson acted out of malice.
“We said we will give you the $1 million and will work out the lease over a period. He is being disgruntled and bad-minded as there is no cost attached to tomorrow’s games, which we have not dealt with already,” he said.
“I didn’t expect the JFF to take a step like that as they are supposed to be blind supporters of football. There has been no breakdown. Our position was very clear and his has no basis at all.”
Among Gibson’s grievances were confidentiality issues as well as the indefinite suspension of the Under-21 league, which is run in tandem with the senior league.
“I gave clubs individual information recently and it was all over the media after that,” he said, adding that the PLCA’s future role would be discussed at Sunday’s congress.
“The Under-21s should have commenced on Sunday last but I had no information as to the sponsorship package. We got that very late as it relates to sponsorship and other pertinent details. We met in-house and decided the Under-21s would not start until all the details were in place,” he pointed out.
The PLCA, Gibson said, was an interim body and might have to be re-examined by the incoming administration.
“They were authorised to negotiate, at a board of directors meeting on September 9, 2007, to act on behalf of the JFF for negotiations of the 2007-2008 season,” he said.
Meanwhile, Seaga remains adamant the JFF did not have to call off today’s games.
“It is unfortunate,” he said. “We lost one month at the beginning of the season and we are going to lose Wednesday, throwing back the league in terms of its time table.
“That was not a decision they should have taken as the league and players have nothing to do with what was domestic problems.
“From about three weeks ago, we realised they were in trouble. We said it was not good for them to leave under those conditions. We decided to help them pay off people owed.
“It’s just a lot of foolishness. Another meeting or two and we would have refined the costs and in the meantime we would have given them the million dollars.”
Shelly-Ann Weeks, marketing manager of new sponsors Cash Plus Limited, said she was awaiting the outcome of a meeting called by the PLCA to be updated on the impasse.
Meanwhile, incoming JFF president, Captain Horace Burrell, stuck to his guns, refusing to elaborate on the affairs of the current administration.
“I will not comment until Sunday. After congress on Sunday, I will have a lot to say,” he said.