Lame duck presidency: former JFF boss Tony James says bad call on Donaldson's contract could end Ricketts reign

By October 07, 2023
Tony James (left) and current JFF president Michael Ricketts Tony James (left) and current JFF president Michael Ricketts

Former Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) president Tony James says the recent move to cut Lorne Donaldson from the Reggae Girlz programme, could prove the final nail in the coffin of the Michael Ricketts-led administration, as he believes their chances of retaining leadership of the country’s football were already slim.

James –like many football enthusiasts at home and abroad –has always been critical of Ricketts’s leadership and even felt he should have relinquished the post last year when the senior Reggae Boyz players called for the scalp of then general secretary Dalton Wint.  

At that point, James said Ricketts lacked the requisite acumen to continue leading the sport’s local governing body, as he failed to accept responsibility for the chaos that has unfolded in Jamaica’s football over the past few years with players and some coaches consistently expressing discontent at the constant “lack of respect, transparency and communication” from the JFF hierarchy.

Now thrown in the spotlight once again with the non-renewal of Donaldson’s contract, and the elections due by year end, James thinks it might just result in Ricketts and administration’s demise.

Donaldson, who was appointed in 2022, led the Reggae Girlz to a second-consecutive FIFA Women’s World Cup. At the tournament jointly hosted by Australia and New Zealand, they had an historic run to the round of 16, after drawing with France and Brazil and defeating Panama in the group stage.

The Reggae Girlz eventually bowed out following a 0-1 loss to Colombia.

In their most recent fixtures, the Reggae Girlz suffered back-to-back losses to Canada in a failed bid to qualify for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, but the progress the team has made under Donaldson’s leadership is without question.

“The upcoming election is the exact reason why that decision with Lorne is poor. If you have an election in a couple of weeks, why are you going to make a move like this.

“You have a lame duck presidency and administration why are you going to take on a massive investment for a national women’s coach when JFF is still in restrictive financing, why would you want to do that now. So that decision is a matter of bad timing,” James said in a recent interview with Sportsmax.tv.

By virtue of hiring a new coach, James argues that the Reggae Girlz programme will be unnecessarily reset, when there are other areas of the country’s football that needs more attention.

“The schoolboy football needs to be reset, the academy programme needs to be reset and the parishes, the most important on the agenda heading into the elections, have to be reset,” he asserted.

For the upcoming elections, Ricketts, who has been in power since 2017, will be challenged by current vice-president Raymond Anderson.

Anderson, who has served in previous administrations has the likes of former Cricket West Indies President Dave Cameron, Marketing Strategist Cecile Dennis, Kingston and St Andrew Football Association President Mark Bennett and St Thomas Football Association President Wayne Thompson, on his campaign team.

Last year's changes to the JFF's constitutional reform will result in an increase in delegates from 13 –previously consisted solely of parish confederation presidents –to 56, comprising more stakeholders.

James also took issues with those changes.

“Everything seems to be wrong structurally about what they are doing. The election of the parishes comes three months after the JFF elections, and what exist now is a corrupt construct, you can’t have a corrupt construct electing a president and a new board for a four-year term. You should have the election for the parishes first and then out of that election you elect a new JFF board,” James opined.

“The thing is that when you have a corrupt construct that exist in the JFF, the majority of people that are going to vote are people you have to appeal to, to vote for you. So, if you accept the fact that the parishes, especially the rural parishes, some of them are extremely weak and extremely poor in their structure, you have to correct that first or at least attempt to correct that.

“But they are going for votes rather to correct the structure and if the structure is not corrected no matter who gets there (the presidency) then it won’t make a difference. Because you're trying to get football moving forward and get football resilient which means you have to always be moving forward without moving back. Instead, what has been happening now is that you take two steps forward one step back you need everybody in the same boat moving in the same direction,” he ended.

Sherdon Cowan

Sherdon Cowan is a five-time award-winning journalist with 10 years' experience covering sports.

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