Raheem Morrison

Mon, 18 Jan 2021

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The NBA restarted their disrupted league campaign by completing the regular season, then the playoffs, paused for a short break, and started a new season with most teams having completed at least 10 games. Almost all European football leagues have resumed and finished their respective domestic league and cup competitions for the 2019-20 season and are currently 3-4 months into their 2020-21 seasons. The UEFA Champions League and Europa League campaigns also wrapped up for last season and group stages for both competitions have been completed for this season. In Jamaica, however, live sports still have not fully resumed since the COVID shutdown, while a recent restart to track and field was halted by the Ministry of Health. The Ministry denied approval for the Purewater/JC/R. Danny Williams Invitational Development Meet and the Ted Dwyer Classics and Pentathlon Challenge amidst the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. 

Livelihoods affected.

We are about to approach almost a year of a complete standstill regarding live contact sports which is a very precarious situation for players with no other source of income. Unlike overseas, where most international athletes are likely to be paid even when they are not active, several Jamaican athletes do not have that luxury. This will likely result in frustration among our local athletes while some will turn to more traditional jobs for income which will likely affect their training and preparation for a restart.

Student athlete development

The development of our student-athletes across various sporting disciplines has seriously been hampered by the long pause of all contact sports. Players need competition to sharpen and improve their talents thus the island’s sporting bodies, and the respective ministries must come to viable agreements as soon as possible. Another precarious situation for student-athletes is the ability to secure scholarships that usually hinges on their performances in the presence of scouts. If sporting activities do not resume soon, several young talents may have to find another source of funding to attend university, as documenting local games and meets is not a popular concept on the island and cannot be relied on.

Preparation for major sporting events.

CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers are just around the corner, and several Jamaica Premier League players would have been hoping to be in the mix. While locally based players like Kemal Malcolm and Lamar Walker were involved in the recent friendlies against Saudi Arabia, it is highly unlikely that players in a league that has not restarted will be relied upon for such crucial games. The Olympics are scheduled for later this year as well and our athletes need to get track meets under their belt as not everyone will be privy to diamond league invites.

Lack of entertainment

It is a well-known phenomenon that sports tend to bring people together, no matter if they are from volatile areas and/or persons with differing financial positions. In a time where social events are few and far between, crime is rampant despite COVID-19 curfews, zones of special operations, and states of emergencies all being active. I believe sports could adequately fill that gap. While I do not expect sports to return with many fans in attendance, several local sporting events are broadcasted live on different local media channels that fans would tune into.

Sponsorship woes

Several sporting bodies and local teams will be hampered in their attempts to attract new sponsorship as well as maintaining current sponsors if live sports do not resume in short order. Companies will be very hesitant to invest without any indication of when and how sports will resume, as they would not be able to adequately gauge a return on their investment or receive brand coverage during the live events. There are always exceptions however as the Jamaica Premier League has continued to rake in new sponsors, however I suspect that has more to do with the chairman of the Professional Football Jamaica Limited (PFJL) Christopher Williams and his stewardship.

In a press release on January 13, Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton said that the government is working towards the safe resumption of sports on the island. He also announced that he would be meeting with Minister of Sports Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange the following day to chart the path forward for sports resumption. Thereafter, a series of scheduled meetings will be held between the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport and the sporting associations. One can only hope these meetings are fruitful and live sports can resume before the end of the month.

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