Fri | Dec 4, 2020

McIntosh bursts the bubble - Concacaf official says biosecure football financially infeasible

Published:Saturday | October 31, 2020 | 12:14 AMDaniel Wheeler/Staff Reporter
Waterhouse FC’s Colorado Murray (front) outjumps two Portmore United players to the ball in their National Premier League game at the Spanish Town Prison Oval.
Waterhouse FC’s Colorado Murray (front) outjumps two Portmore United players to the ball in their National Premier League game at the Spanish Town Prison Oval.

Concacaf executive Howard McIntosh says that it is not financially possible to hold competitions in a biosecure environment in the region.

He was speaking on Tuesday at a University of the West Indies, Mona webinar hosted by the Faculty of Sport, which addressed the issue of bubbles as a means of holding sporting events to safeguard against the coronavirus.

Various competitions worldwide have used the framework as a means to complete their respective tournaments and leagues which were either interrupted or cancelled because of the pandemic.

“Having heard about the cost of West Indies cricket and the NBA, which is in millions of dollars, close to maybe billions, it can’t happen in our region because we just can’t afford it,” McIntosh said.

Regional competitions have been postponed since March because of the pandemic. However, the Concacaf League has restarted recently with frequent COVID-19 testing before matches and the format being changed for seeded teams to host single elimination games up to the quarter-final round.

McIntosh said that having competitions in more controlled environments, with continuous testing, would be the direction going forward to restart football in the region, similar to how major European leagues operate.

“The approach that we have taken, moving from the contained biosecure bubble is a contained environment with high-frequency testing. That is what is being used now in the English Premier League,” he said.

Cricket has been one of the few sports that managed a sports bubble in the region. Caribbean Premier League (CPL) Director of Operations Michael Hall was also on the panel and said that just the costs of testing for all personnel for their recently concluded season ranged between US$150,000 to US$200,000 (just under J$22 million to $J29 million). He said that to host such events, a commitment had to be made to take pay cuts across the board.

“Everybody associated with the event was asked to take a 30 per cent cut in their normal remuneration,” Hall said. “It’s a sacrifice that we all agreed to make in order to project the CPL brand because well felt that to have our brand absent for an entire year would have been too damaging to the league commercially.”

With the National Premier League tentatively set to start on November 14 in the absence of a bubble environment, McIntosh said that the focus would be on safeguarding players, given their limited resources to restart football regionally.

“The question now is how to do it in a place like Jamaica, and in the Caribbean, to get those leagues started at a professional level without a biosecure bubble, and what can be done to ensure that we protect all the persons involved,” he said.