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Give up BFA hat, Mr Jones

Andi Thornhill

Give up BFA hat, Mr Jones

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The management of local football has reached a critical stage.
Our recent infamous exit from the first round of the 2014 World Cup was the latest reminder that we need to shape a new path for the sport if it is to advance.
Obviously, the direction must be charted by those at the top. President Ronald Jones has the responsibility to lead from in front.
Nobody doubts Jones’ capabilities to do such but there is a legitimate question regarding the time he has to effectively lead the Barbados Football Association (BFA) given that he is also the Minister of Education.
This is arguably one of the ministries that needs the constant presence of its substantive leader inspite of support from the technocrats and other important operatives.
I can’t see Jones’ stewardship of the BFA taking precedence over education.
He should shed one, and in order of priority it should be the presidency of the BFA.
Like in the Ministry of Education, there is human resource support for the president but since he took up his ministerial post Jones has not been the face nor – at most times – the voice of his organisation.
This is quite understandable because of his ministerial responsibility.
With respect to some senior officers, they do not address matters concerning the BFA with the same authority and assurance as the president.
This, too, is understandable because when you are placed in that position you are cautious about what to say lest what you do is not in concert with the president’s thoughts and you wish not to offend.
I have interacted with BFA officials on several matters which would have been tackled better if Jones had been the one dealing with them.
In a lot of cases, I felt that the buck was being passed back to the president as it should in the first place if protocol is to be followed.
Alas, it is what it is because the president already has a lot on his plate dealing with the intricacies of education and finding way to deal with them appropriately.
In this respect, I think he has held his own even if he has made controversial comments on occasion.
His portfolio is very challenging, and I believe it is a hard balancing act overseeing the affairs of the Education Ministry and the BFA. Something has to give.
I know even the late Prime Minister David Thompson encouraged Jones to remain as president of the BFA on the premise that he would have the inside track as a Cabinet minister and football could benefit.
In a sense, if it had worked, it would have been prejudicial to other sports who didn’t have an advocate at ministerial level to push their cases.
I am mindful that the Minister of Sports sits in Cabinet but he has to have an ear for all sporting concerns.
Truth be told, I am hardpressed to identify what major strides football has made since Jones became a Cabinet minister.
I believe the most significant achievement was the Under-17s progressing to the last round of the CONCACAF play-offs for the World Cup in Mexico this year.
Even so, once they were eliminated there was no official party from the BFA to greet them at the airport. I was there covering the story since I was still in the employ of the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation as sports editor.
I note that work is in progress erecting a home for football in Wildey but I don’t know how much credit I can attribute to any officer of the BFA because this FIFA Goal Project has been a decade in the making.
Fact of the matter is, Jones’ ministerial pick has not contributed to the development of football.
When you analyse it objectively, you will recognise it is the academies like Pro-Shottas and the Barbados Soccer Academy that are trying their best to create opportunities for young players.
Most recently organisers of two major out-of-season tournaments betrayed the lack of enterprise within the ranks of the BFA to stage competitions to capture the imagination of the country and leave us needing more.
Jones and company have to take note of such a revolutionary development. The expectations of the players and the public have risen tremendously and it is up to the BFA to respond affirmatively.
I hope I didn’t read correctly a report that Jones wants to fill a senior post in the Caribbean Football Union.
As it is, being the Minister of Education and the president of the BFA is too much load. A senior role at regional level would be inviting triple trouble.
He needs to think again if it is so.
Jones has the administrative capacity to lead but I don’t think he has the time for two major organisations, far less three, to function in the manner that is expected.