Football needs fresh blood
By Andi Thornhill | Wed, September 12, 2012 - 12:03 AM
Ronald Jones can be beaten at the upcoming Barbados Football Association’s annual general meeting but he may still be smart enough to avoid the red card.
It will come down to stature and strategy, and I don’t think that any of the prospective challengers can match him in these areas.
If it were to be decided solely on Jones’ stewardship of the BFA in the past four years, in my opinion, he would lose because I don’t believe he has had the time to concentrate on football matters as he would have wished as his creative energies have been split with his duties as a Cabinet minister.
I don’t think he has been able to serve the two masters adequately and football has been the bigger loser.
Some will argue that once he has a solid working executive behind him, the governance of football should be easy, but that could be the problem.
At the end of the day, all roads lead to the head that wears the crown and no operative is prepared to make crucial decisions if the sheriff is not in town.
At all times, Government business must take precedence and if this isn't being done, Jones should be made to give account.
It is quite alright to set out policy and to delegate, but all managers know that they must have a strong visible presence to ensure that plans are transformed into performance.
Honestly, if Jones hasn’t always been around to answer football’s call, I can understand, because the task of overseeing Government’s education policies can’t be easy.
There are so many factions to deal with and they would all feel that he’s accountable to all of them. He is expected to find solutions to all their problems.
The demands from his football constituents are the same.
And it’s not like we have had too much to cheer about from the BFA’s end that would temporarily mask its ineffectiveness in developing football.
We are looking at a man whose hands are full, with limited time to share between two big organizations.
Education touches all sectors and football is arguably the biggest mass sport in Barbados.
Jones has withstood constant calls from the Opposition to quit football, and while we understand there could be some expediency in this, he soldiers on in his characteristic singleminded style.
There are no visible signs that football has made any progress in the past four years, and Barbados’ lowest rating ever of 175 on the FIFA list sums up the sorry state of the game.
However, on the other hand, as an individual, Jones’ star continues to rise in the FIFA galaxy.
After the infamous cash-for-votes scandal simmered, he was part of a committee that was chosen to oversee matters in the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) until an election was called and he’s now part of FIFA’s ethics committee.
In a sense, while he is going up, local football is coming down and fast. It will hit rock bottom if not checked urgently.
The irony in this is that Jones’ overall stature as a public figure might be the aces that are stacked against his opponents, who might be well known in their own right, but don’t carry the same punching power.
For instance, some people might hold the view that Jones is still in the best position to get things done. He can open doors the others can’t.
Not only that, despite the fact that politicians are generally derided, we love the ground they walk on. We hold them in high esteem when we see them even if we curse them behind their backs.
That’s simply our culture.
In this regard, Jones’ social standing with the football electorate will strike a resounding chord that could see his rivals left in the gates while he canters to the finish line for another term.
Sorry to concede, but I think most elections are won on image and not necessarily on substance.
Jones’ persona is so powerful in football circles that it won’t surprise me if he retains the leadership of the BFA unopposed.
Mind you, I know of the passion for football of some of his likely rivals. I know of their goodwill and they would perhaps do a lot more than Jones if they were elected but they must first convince those who will vote that image is superficial but performance is fundamental to the development of football.
There is need for change in the BFA’s pecking order but the majority must find the will to make it happen.
One’s manifesto will not be the key to winning hearts either. In raw political terms, it will come down to who ensures that their supporters turn out to vote.
Jones’ loyalists will more than likely stick with him and if these ranks are not infiltrated it makes the job that much harder to remove him from the head of the table.
I am, of course, speaking with practical knowledge of such matters once being the delegate for the Spooners Hill Football Club at an annual general meeting.
The so-called clique system is the hardest to break. You tend to see people who don’t come
around too often but will show up in droves to make sure their man wins on the day of reckoning.
It is part of the Achilles heel that lends to the retardation, in some cases, and stagnation, in others, of the development of local sports.
Therefore, it is a norm to see the same faces in sporting organizations for over 30 years, while it is questionable whether their presence has been worthwhile being in a position to make a positive difference for so long.
Football is crying out for new blood, new faces, new ideas to make some headway. The old baggage needs to be offloaded.
The time is ripe for change, but I am not certain whether football’s electorate is courageous enough to give Jones the boot.
• Andi Thornhill is an award-winning freelance sports journalist.
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