JFF moves to debunk 'inaccurate and contradictory' claims made by suspended winger Leon Bailey

By March 22, 2024

Amidst the fallout from Jamaica's defeat to the United States in the CONCACAF Nations League semi-final, the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) found itself thrust into the spotlight, not for the on-field performance, but rather for the controversy sparked by one of its own players, Leon Bailey.

Bailey, the talented Aston Villa winger, had recently taken to the "Let's Be Honest" podcast to air his grievances against the JFF, leveling accusations of unprofessionalism and neglect against the governing body. His claims ranged from issues with flight arrangements to delays in payment, painting a picture of dissatisfaction that led to his hiatus from national team duties.

Bailey was suspended and not invited to be part of the team for the Nations League semi-final after he broke curfew during a previous team camp and as a consequence was not considered for selection by Coach Heimer Hallgrimsson. The player has since said he will make himself unavailable for national duties for the foreseeable future.

In response to Bailey’s disparaging statements, the JFF has wasted no time in responding to the player’s allegations. In a detailed statement released on Friday morning, the federation sought to debunk the assertions made by the disaffected Reggae Boyz winger.

The statement led with the acknowledgment of Bailey's comments on the podcast, swiftly moving to address the inaccuracies and misconceptions contained therein. Notably, the JFF emphasized that while Bailey's criticism of the coaching staff would be addressed separately, the focus would be on clarifying the factual inaccuracies regarding the federation's operations.

One of the primary points of contention was Bailey's claim that he had to personally book his airline tickets and often endured subpar travel conditions, such as economy class with multiple stops. The JFF countered this assertion by presenting evidence of recent flight bookings for Bailey, all of which showed premium economy or business class accommodations with standard one-stop routes, effectively refuting Bailey's narrative.

“Firstly, the charges made that Leon has to book his own airline tickets, is always contending with multiple stops, and is always booked in economy are inaccurate and contradictory,” the JFF said in its statement.

“Contradictory because if he says he books his own ticket but then says that he is always booked in economy, with multiple stops, and always receives the tickets late, then it would suggest that he is the reason why he has those issues, as he is the one, he asserts, who books the tickets. The fact though is that these statements are untrue.

“In order to verify these statements, we researched the last three bookings for Leon, and the following were the results:

A ticket booked for a travel date of 4 September 2023, shows a booking on AA 6958 leaving London Heathrow at 10:25AM, with a stop in Miami and then a flight on AA 0850, departing at 5:57PM to Jamaica. This is a typical one stop for flights out of the UK to Jamaica, and the seat type for both flights were Business.

“A ticket booked for travel date 13 November 2023, shows a booking on VS 0103 leaving London Heathrow at 10:50AM, with a stop in Atlanta and then a flight on VS 3832, departing at 6:10PM to Jamaica. This is a typical one stop flight out of the UK to Jamaica, and the seat types were Business and Economy, respectively.

“A ticket booked for travel date 19 November 2023, shows a booking on AC 0983 leaving Montego Bay at 1:45PM, with a stop in Toronto and then a flight on AC 0854, departing at 6:20PM to London Heathrow. This is a typical one stop flight out of Jamaica to the UK, and the seat types were Business for both.

The JFF continued: “We could, of course, show additional similar tickets booked for Leon (which he travelled on) and so we are at a loss about the statements that he books his own tickets, that they were sent to him late (when all itineraries are sent days before to the players for confirmation), and that the bookings were primarily economy.

“The JFF does have a policy that all players are booked on premium economy, which is similar to what is done in other sporting organizations, as the cost of booking all players on Business would make the programme unaffordable. This is communicated to all players, and they advise in many cases (including Leon) that we should use any monies owed to them to purchase Business class tickets on occasions, when they advise. The option is available to all players to upgrade their tickets themselves or by setting off against funds owed to them.”

Furthermore, the JFF refuted Bailey's allegations of non-payment, stating that while outstanding funds from 2022 were being addressed, players received consistent per diem payments and had their camp and game expenses covered by the federation.

“The charge made that he has received no monies from the JFF, is untrue. The JFF has stated that funds are outstanding to the Boyz, from as far back as 2022, and we have made inroads in paying it down, and has advised that we will pay them off in second quarter 2024.

“We can confidently say though that we have been paying per diem consistently, and we also cover all costs relating to the camps or games. So, saying that no funds have been received from JFF is misleading, and unfortunate. We would like to add that the JFF, like many national federations, is not able to match what is paid by the professional clubs.

“We would think though that the honour of playing for your country is something that all patriotic Jamaicans would want to do, as we realize that we will never be able to match the financial rewards of the professional clubs. We never realized that playing for Jamaica was primarily about financial rewards, and that this would be a main consideration”.

In addition to addressing Bailey's specific grievances, the JFF clarified the division of responsibilities between the federation's secretariat and the coaching staff, reiterating that team selections were solely within the coach's purview. This distinction aimed to underscore the federation's commitment to fairness and equality among players while respecting the autonomy of the coaching staff.

“The JFF secretariat would also like to say that the decision about team dynamics, and who is selected or not, remains the sole decision of the coach and his staff. The secretariat merely receives the requirements from the team technical staff, and determines if we have the funding support or not.

“So, the implication that it is the JFF secretariat that determines who is selected to the team is false. The accountability of the coach to the JFF secretariat is whether he is a success or not, and our job is merely to hire or terminate the coach but not interfere in the coaching decisions.

“One thing we will not encourage is for any player to be treated differently from any other. However, what happens within the team is a matter for the coaching staff.

 “The JFF wants to say again that it is unfortunate that we have to be addressing these public comments, as we believe that the professional thing to do is for differences to be addressed with each other and not through social, or other media.”

 Despite the disappointment expressed by the JFF at having to address such public comments, the federation remained steadfast in its dedication to professionalism and integrity within Jamaican football. Moving forward, the JFF hoped that internal dialogue and resolution would prevail over public discord, reaffirming its unwavering support for the national team and the sport as a whole.

 

Leighton Levy

Leighton Levy is a journalist with 28 years’ experience covering crime, entertainment, and sports. He joined the staff at SportsMax.TV as a content editor two years ago and is enjoying the experience of developing sports content and new ideas. At SportsMax.tv he is pursuing his true passion - sports.

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