The battle between the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) and the Reggae Boyz about wage demands is an expected drama that we can anticipate at least once every two years.
Unfortunate to say the least, but it has become synonymous with the relationship between both parties, oftentimes leading to player protests, refusal to play and even division within the squad.
When the leaked recorded conversation between Damion Lowe and members of the JFF came out earlier this year about the payment the Boyz should receive for their two friendly fixtures against Saudi Arabia in November, former national players commended the center back on his handling of the situation. Ricardo Fuller, former national striker, also indicated during an interview with Sportsmax TV, that this constant back and forth surrounding player salaries has been an ongoing problem for several years, even during his time playing for the Reggae Boyz.
The fact that Fuller and his teammates also endured similar difficulties with a then, completely different JFF administration, suggests the problem is much deeper than the persons involved. The issue surrounding match fees seems to be a tricky one. How much do the Reggae Boyz deserve to be paid? Does the JFF have the requisite funds to pay them the requested amount? What criteria is put in place to determine the amount?
So many questions, so few answers.
Recently, the new tension surrounding payment was centered around contractual arrangements that were presented to the squad for the 14 World Cup qualification matches that are scheduled to begin later this year. At the heart of the failed negotiations is the request by the players for a match fee of $7000 USD which is a massive counter offer from the JFF’s initial proposal of $2000 USD.
Several players, including captain Andre Blake as well as senior members Damion Lowe and Kemar Lawrence, took to social media to protest by “Taking a Stance” indicating that they simply had enough of the federation’s mediocre demands.
However, many would look at the massive gap between both offers and say that perhaps the players are asking for a bit too much, but are they really?
In 2015, it was reported that the then Reggae Boyz squad received a match fee of $5000. Not much disparity between that figure and the one being requested by the current group of players. It would therefore seem reasonable that the Reggae Boyz of today, who entertain a much higher FIFA ranking and are possibly in the best ever position to qualify for a world cup in over a decade, are deserving of the match fee they have requested.
Jamaica’s current FIFA ranking of 47 is just 20 slots lower than our highest ever position of 27 back in 1998 when we qualified for our very first World Cup. The nation is also the highest ranked in the Caribbean and the third highest behind USA and Mexico in CONCACAF.
The achievement of the team over the last few years shouldn’t go unnoticed and perhaps it is because of all this hard work why the members of the current squad feel as though they deserve to be shown more respect financially.
However, the JFF continues to emphasize that they have no intentions of arguing with the players nor are they seeking to be difficult but insist they are desperately strapped for cash.
Following the revelation that the Reggae Boyz team were paid $5000 USD per match in 2015, current President Michael Ricketts insisted that it was because of that payment why the current federation has been struggling to offer the players more money.
“We are trying to get ourselves [to] some kind of stability and we managed to have shaved off 60 million dollars from that debt” he stated
“Based on my information, that $5000 per game included bonuses so it would be $5000 inclusive of everything. What we had offered was $2000 plus $1000 for bonus.”
If that is indeed the case then it is understandable why the JFF has been trying to lessen the expenses, however, it must not be at a great expense to the players who are risking their lives and careers for Jamaica every time they step onto the field. Both parties have interests that, quite rightly, must be adhered to. But if the country is to reshape its focus on qualifying for next year’s World Cup finals then the team and the federation must come together now with a resolution that satisfies everyone involved.