Sun | Sep 27, 2020

Schoolboy football reshuffle - Ben Francis and Walker Cup competitions get make-over as season draws near

Published:Thursday | August 22, 2019 | 12:00 AMLivingston Scott/Gleaner Writer
(From left) William Mahfood, chairman of the Wisynco Group, speaks with Andrei Roper, brand manager for Restaurants of Jamaica (KFC), and Keith Wellington, President of the Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA) at the launch of the 2019 schoolboy football season at the Terra Nova Hotel yesterday.
Keith Wellington (left), president of the Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA), receives a cheque for $25 million from Elon Parkinson, Digicel’s public relations and communications manager, at the launch of the 2019 schoolboy football season at the Terra Nova Hotel yesterday.

After a failed attempt last season to rebrand and reignite the urban and rural area schoolboy knockout competitions, the Walker Cup and the Ben Francis Cup, the Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA), has readjusted both competitions again this season in order to make them more attractive and meaningful to competing teams.

Speaking at the launch of the 2019 ISSA schoolboy football season, daCosta Cup chairman and Rusea’s principal Livern Wright pointed out that the association is looking to make a few more switches to the tournaments to make them more appealing to the public after criticism last season that the adjustments devalued both tournaments.

In 2017, group winners and some second-placed teams advanced in the Corporate Area Walker Cup competition while daCosta Cup second-round group winners and a few runners-up teams would to the Ben Francis Cup competition.

But last season, the winners from the seeded playoffs system progressed to the Manning Cup and Champions Cup quarterfinals, while the losers contested the Walker Cup competition.

While in the rural competitions, the top two teams from the four Dacosta Cup quarterfinal groups qualified for the Champions Cup and daCosta Cups playoffs while the third-and fourth-place teams competed for the Ben Francis Cup.

However, Wright explained that after experimenting with last season’s tournaments, they consulted with the coaches and stakeholders and made the adjustments based on the feedback received.

“Last year, we weren’t closed on the things that we had done because we were experimenting. We tried to be consultative and listen to coaches and everybody and what we have done (this season) is what we have listen to,” Wright said.

For the Ben Francis Cup competition this season, only the second and third placed teams in the daCosta Cup’s four quarter-finals groups will compete in the rural area knockout competition. The competition will be played over three rounds, with the second round being the semi-final and the last round being the final.

The new Walker Cup format is far less straightforward. It will see the top two teams plus the two best third places teams, from each Manning Cup group qualifying to a play off round, resulting in 16 qualifiers.

Winners advance to Quarterfinals

The eight winners will advance to the Manning Cup quarterfinal groups (two groups of four teams) and the Champions Cup.

The eight losers will feature in a play-off series. From that series, the four winners will square off against the third and fourth placed teams in the Manning Cup quarter-final groups in the Walker Cup competition.

The top two teams in each quarterfinal group will advance to the Manning Cup semi-finals. Both Manning Cup and daCosta Cup formats will remain as is. Meanwhile, this season’s competitions have been sponsored to the tune of over $80 million.

WATA has contributed $37M, Digicel $25M, KFC, $18M and Kendel $3M.

The season is scheduled to kickoff on September 7, with the opening games at the Montego Bay Sports Complex, with defending Manning Cup champions Kingston College playing Excelsior in the first game at 2:00 p.m.

Clarendon College take on Lennon High in the second match at 5:00 p.m. while Cornwall College play Irwin High in the closing match at 7:00 p.m.