Brian Pitter

Mon, 01 Jun 2020

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Just as Leon Bailey’s relationship with the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) had assumed some level of stability, the two parties have seemingly hit another major roadblock. Given Bailey’s recent comments two weeks ago during an Instagram Live interview with 876Stream, the tension has hit fever pitch once again. Craig Butler, Leon’s adopted father and agent, has gone as far as declaring that if sanctioned, Leon may permanently withdraw his services from the National team.

How did we get here? Bailey, who was a recent guest on 876Stream’s Instagram Live made some controversial statements about the JFF. Inevitably, members of the JFF got wound up and were visibly upset, making public statements about the matter and criticizing the Leverkusen attacker in the process. Butler then labelled the federation as “unprofessional” and “unethical” during a recent interview on SportsMax’s Sportsmax Zone, for their public handling of the situation. He was angry at the fact that not only was his client threatened to be sanctioned for the comments but also that suggestions were made that Bailey’s statements were in some way fueled by disagreements his step-father has been having with the country’s football governing body for a number of years. 

Bailey’s comments centered around the fact that the national team does not have any footballing system, one that is implemented from the grass-roots up. With that said it is generally difficult for any player to readapt to the team during international breaks. 

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Some people will say that there is no such thing as a Jamaican “style of play” because there is no identity that is synonymous with the national program. We do not have a style of play that is instilled throughout all the national programs, akin to the likes of Spain or Holland, encrypting a football philosophy throughout the football infrastructure. A player that goes out to play for his respective club is not coming back to a settled national team and system; there is no clear cut program that they can easily transition into. With all their exceptional quality, players like Bailey and Bobby Reid have seemingly struggled somewhat to adapt to the national team. Over the years, we can take a look at the performances of Garath McCleary and James Beckford, who were both good players in the English League at the time but struggled to hit these heights for the Jamaican National Team.

Bailey’s comments only served to state an issue that many Jamaicans have been complaining about for years. It is understandable why the federation’s key members would be upset, however, sanctioning Bailey for those statements would only serve to do more harm than good. If anything, the situation highlights the stubbornness of the JFF, a trait they have become synonymous with for years.

Also, as Butler quite rightly pointed out, how can you sanction Bailey for expressing his views about an issue when he clearly did not disrespect anyone or call specific names? Additionally, Butler has stated that Bailey is yet to be offered a contract by the JFF. How can the player then be punished when he has not received any particular guidelines or rules to follow?

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Let us not forget that it was just last year that JFF President Michael Ricketts labeled veteran full-back Kemar ‘Taxi’ Lawrence as “rude and disrespectful” following his comments which attacked the inadequacies within the federation. Ironically, the JFF’s response at the time was also to threaten Lawrence with a sanction, but no punitive action was ever taken against the Anderlecht defender. 

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What this goes to show is that the JFF has not been particularly good at handling incidents of this nature and their inability to resist publicly criticizing the players have somewhat further damaged their reputation. Given the handling of this situation, Butler has stated that if Bailey were to be punished for his comments it would be seen as a violation of his freedom of expression and free speech. Butler has made it clear that if sanctioned, Bailey would no longer represent the Reggae Boyz.

It is with much hope that both parties can come to a mutual agreement where only the best interest of the nation’s football is of paramount importance.

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