Western Grandstand: Well said Ricketts, no hijack around here

February 24, 2018
Phoenix Academy founder Craig Butler (centre) and standout players, his sons Leon Bailey (left) and Kyle Butler.

After weeks of watching Craig Butler and his fan club dominating the sport news cycle with what appears to be a quid pro quo offer to the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF), which seemed designed to box the federation into a corner, I am glad president Michael Ricketts has made it clear that the Phoenix Academy boss will not be allowed to hijack our football.

As I have stated repeatedly in this column, I think Leon Bailey is a fantastic young player and, if his overall development continues to progress along its current path, the youngster could, before long, be ranked alongside some of the modern-day greats such as Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo, the Brazilian Neymar and the Argentine Lionel Messi.

While I am sure that Butler wants the very best for himself and his sons, I believe his unrelenting bid to use the Bayer Leverkusen sensation as a bargaining chip to parachute himself into a high-profile position in the JFF, bypassing the accepted channels in getting there, is indecent and does not speak well for him as a potential team player.

While I do have my own issues with the JFF on matters, such as its failure to come clean with the salary issues with head coach Theodore 'Tappa' Whitmore and its obvious tardiness in seeking to bring more rural parishes into the national spotlight, I still do not see the federation as a 'patty pan'-style operation, where any Dick, Tom and Harry can just walk in and start dictating terms.

Craig Butler's passion aside, I believe he is taking the wrong approach in his bid to get into Jamaica's football, and I am happy that Ricketts has decided not to be like a drunkard in the dark, uncertain as to where he is going but has instead taken a principled stance, refusing to capitulate under pressure.

My one disappointment with the JFF is that the federation did not publicly chastise Butler when he all but demanded that, if Jamaica wants to get the services of Leon Bailey, Vin Blaine, the former national football director, should first be removed from his position. I believe the failure to act decisively then is what emboldened Butler and caused him to believe he can simply dance around the federation.

I know Ricketts and his team will be heavily criticised for dismissing Butler on his 'my way or the highway' stance, which is giving the impression that he does not believe that the federation is governed by rules and regulations and is wide open for his manipulation. Surely, had Butler and his team buckled to him, the federation would be left looking like a pack of jokers and not credible administrators.

I think that now that the JFF has come clean and has told Butler that while we would welcome Leon Bailey into the national set-up, we are not interested in the package deal with himself and his son Kyle Butler, it is time to cut him loose. If he wants to become a part of the national programme, he must wait until there is a vacancy and put in an application. As for his son Kyle, he should wait until the national coach deems him ready to be called up on merit.

If it is indeed true that England is interested in having Bailey represent them in the upcoming 2018 World Cup in Russia, that is a decision that Butler and Bailey will have to make on their own. If they choose England, I would not have a problem supporting Bailey in much the same way I am supporting Raheem Sterling parading in his England shirt.

It would be interesting to see if Butler would choose to stick up England with his outlandish package deal which he was foisting on Jamaica. I am 100 per cent sure that being a credible federation, England would not entertain any discussion about being forced to take Kyle Butler as well, while delivering their director of football job on a platter to Butler.

Personally, if I were advising president Ricketts, I would recommend that he makes one last call to Butler and make it quite clear to him that, while we would be only too happy to have Bailey representing Jamaica, we are not interested in his package deal, so unless he is prepared to drop his demand, he should take a hike to some far away destination.

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