Western Grandstand : Sandals South Coast a welcome addition
While I am not a fan of the Red Stripe Premier League (RSPL) which I want to see replaced with a competition that is truly national and not skewed in favour of Kingston-based teams, I feel compelled to congratulate Sandals South Coast on earning qualification to the upcoming season.
I can't fault Sandals South Coast for the many and varied inadequacies of the RSPL, which to my mind is a KSAFA competition, masked as a national league.
It is my understanding that Sandals South Coast is owned by the Gordon 'Butch' Stewart-led Sandals Resorts International. If that is true, having them in the league could be a blessing in disguise, as I am sure that, being a business-savvy organisation, the Sandals management will not allow themselves to be manipulated by a Premier League Clubs Association (PLCA), which has emerged as a major impediment to development.
LEGACY NOT SQUANDERED
In qualifying Sandals South Coast for the RSPL, the team's coach, Aaron Lawrence, who was a part of Jamaica's history-making trek to the 1998 World Cup in France, has opened a new avenue to reposition Jamaica's football, which is what is needed to ensure that Captain Horace Burrell's legacy is not squandered.
I believe the coming of Sandals South Coast might be the catalyst needed to breach the status quo by bringing in an entity whose foundation is steeped in business. Just as how the University of the West Indies (UWI) brought intellect and Montego Bay United FC (MBUFC) brought out-of-the box thinking and a progressive vision, Sandals should bring good business acumen.
Though it is not yet in evidence, I am hoping that over time, the UWI organisation, which is built around sound intellect, will bring carefully researched ideas to the table to help create a progressive national football philosophy. Surely, it can't be just about playing football for the UWI, it has to be about adding new scope to develop a better product.
Insofar as MBU are concerned, despite the PLCA's effort to drag them back, over the past five to six years they have shown, through progressive thinking, what it is like to transform big dreams into reality. In addition to winning titles, they have created a football empire at Wespow Park and have become a leader in innovation by streaming their games in the hope of creating a global fan base.
I am hoping that, just as they have done in tourism, Sandals will use its financial and creative power to create a football product that will make them unstoppable.
If, through the lack of vision within the ranks of the Jamaica Football Federation, we continue to be hijacked by the current PLCA-driven RSPL, I believe with the varying assets they have brought to the table, UWI, MBUFC and Sandals South Coast will be able to inspire more teams with diverse offerings to move in and replace the 'old boy' clubs, which are holding back progress.
When Jamaica qualified for the 1998 World Cup, the hotel sector in western Jamaica was one of the unheralded partners which created the much-needed cushion of comfort for the vast majority of the players, who were given full employment, but allowed time off to train and represent Jamaica without having to worry about properly taking care of their families.
Having a team like a Sandals South Coast in the RSPL could be the much-needed spark to inspire big business to start taking a serious look at domestic football. That is the kind of intervention that is needed to transform the league from a mere idle pastime into a big business, churning out quality players.