Dr Mansingh: It was a matter of sacrificing this season or 2020-21
Sports physician Dr Akshai Mansingh says that the Jamaica Football Federation’s (JFF) decision to end the 2019-20 football season, including the Red Stripe Premier League (RSPL), may have come down to a question of ensuring a prompt start to the next campaign or being willing to push back the schedule to complete the 2019-20 season.
Last Friday, JFF President Michael Ricketts declared the football season null and void at all levels. No champions will therefore be named for the various competitions, as well as no promotion or relegation. The reaction has been mixed with RSPL clubs Mount Pleasant and Harbour View voicing their disappointment, while the managements of Waterhouse, Dunbeholden and Arnett Gardens have supported the move.
When asked if the federation made the right decision, Mansingh said that it was difficult to determine but believes that the JFF would have had to take major factors into consideration, including the remaining RSPL schedule, players’ readiness and the state of lower league competitions that would have had promotion and relegation. He believes that these factors would have left the federation with a choice of trying to start the following season on time or be willing to delay to complete the season.
“First and foremost, in my view, would be the remaining schedule and how it would infringe upon the start of a new season because football usually starts in September. So what you don’t want is to run one season into the other,” Mansingh who is also dean of the Faculty of Sport, University of the West Indies, Mona told The Gleaner. “And I think the decision that had to be made is – do you sacrifice the ending of this season to try and save the start of next season? Or do you delay everything down the line?”
Other countries have taken the stance to end their seasons, while other top European clubs are deciding on a pathway towards resumption. Jamaica joins Scotland, Belgium, the Netherlands and Argentina as some of the countries that ended their seasons. While Scotland, Belgium and Argentina declared champions based on their current rankings, Jamaica, like the Netherlands, will have no champions and have suspended promotion and relegation.
Mansingh said that the players’ well-being would also have been a factor in the decision-making, as it would be difficult for local top-flight players to be brought in from different communities, thus increasing the risk of infection.
“Unlike developed countries where club footballers can be kept in isolation for a week, you are looking at a scenario in Jamaica where players come from the communities and they are still under some amount of social distancing,” he said. “The reality is that if you bring footballers in Jamaica together to play a competition, you are potentially increasing the risk of exposure of these players, even without spectators, because they are coming from different communities.”
Germany’s domestic leagues (Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2) made their return this past weekend under strict health protocols, which include isolation of players and staff, testing before matches and games played in empty stadiums.