It is no secret that the Jamaican Premier League is in need of a massive renovation. Chris Williams, co-founder of PROVEN and the new chairman of the league, has made major steps in starting the revamping process but, much more, especially as it concerns player wages, needs to be addressed if the league is to grow.
Based on conversations with players, coaches and other reliable sources, the average player salary is anywhere between $40,000 – $50,000 per month. In an economy that has experienced major inflation since the start of the pandemic, Jamaican football players are struggling to make ends meet and have been known to engage in full time professional careers outside of club duty, turning football into something of a ‘side-hustle.’ To put things into perspective, the lowest income a Jamaican is entitled to receive is $36, 000 per month after the government recently increased minimum wage to $9,000 per week. Therefore, football players in Jamaica, on average, are essentially making just above minimum wage and when you factor in living expenses, the figure becomes even more demoralizing.
This kind of issue is not necessarily a new phenomenon within the local football landscape. For years, players have been lamenting low wages, something that hinders one from affording the standard of living required to survive in Jamaica. Former national senior player Errol Stevens confirmed this and said it is an issue that needs to be addressed if the league is to help improve the quality of football in Jamaica.
“If I’m being totally honest, the reason why it’s so low is because us players don’t have the proper representation and we are just used. Because we are not educated enough to do better,” he explained to 876Stream.
“Only way it can be fixed is if the players’ salaries are put even before the club’s profit, there should be a minimum survivable wage set by the league and all sponsorship money should go towards the players salary first and everything else after as without the players there is no league and what you pay for is what you get.”
Chris Williams had indicated his intentions to help improve the salary bracket amongst the teams upon his ascension to Chairman of the JPL. His plan first though, was to ensure the league itself was properly funded and was immediately able to engineer multiple sponsorship deals with some of the country’s biggest brands including Red Stripe, Digicel, Konnexx, Burger King, JMMB and many others.
The problem is though, not much has been done about the salary standard amongst the players in the past two years. The most important assets of the league are not being paid efficiently, putting any current and future plans Chris Williams and his team has for the JPL, at risk. The current standard of the league is not lucrative enough to attract major corporate sponsorship, which could be a key ingredient in transforming the professionalism of the league.
The dynamic of salary structures in the league is something that should be highlighted before any possible increase is discussed. For example, not all teams are faced with the problem of paying their players well. Mount Pleasant, who currently sit fourth in the JPL, reportedly has players on their books earning around $150, 000 per month. On the contrary, players who turn out for champions Cavalier FC are said to be earning nowhere near that figure.
Head coach of Cavalier FC, Rudolph Speid, has always been vocal about the standard of the league but insists that the focus should be on player development and not necessarily “paying players more money to play football.”
Cavalier, who last season became the youngest ever team to win the Jamaican Premier League, emphasizes the importance of learning the fundamentals of the game from a very early age, and they have reaped the rewards. Cavalier FC produced players like Alex Marshall, Chevone Marsh, Nicque Daley, Kaheem Parris, Jamoi Topey and the much talked about Richard King. Speid notes that the club would not prioritize paying the same kind of salaries as, let’s say, Mount Pleasant, to his players because most of his squad is very young, with the average age of the team being 20/21 years-old.
However, there are a few people who see it differently. From an outside perspective, many believe the league itself can do better and that the inability to pay players adequate wages has a direct correlation to the standard and quality of football we see on display in Jamaica’s highest level of football competition.
Simon Preston, well-known Jamaican sport journalist, insists that the league can do better to attract investors. He suggests that “we can monetize our stadiums” by having local or even overseas companies buy the rights to the club’s football grounds, similar to what we see overseas with, for example, Emirates Stadium or Etihad Stadium. A suggestion to include more community projects as a way to entice corporate wallets was also made, with the idea being to attract more people to football games, generating a larger audience and subsequently creating a more attractive package for companies to buy into.
The league’s potential is clear and the fact that it should be used as a major source of talent for the national team has finally been realized. But, before any further progress can be made, the salary problem amongst the players has to be addressed immediately. A higher salary demands better quality from players which will improve the overall standard of the league.