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Ricketts defends JFF’s flight arrangements

Published:Thursday | May 28, 2020 | 12:00 AMKavarly Arnold/Gleaner Writer
National player Leon Bailey pulls a suitcase shortly after arriving at the Norman Manley International Airport on Thursday, July 4, 2019. The national senior football team was returning from the Concacaf Gold Cup competition.

Western Bureau:

President of the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) Michael Ricketts dismissed criticism of their handling of travel arrangements for national players and teams. He noted that the federation doesn't have the funds available to make first and business class flight arrangements for travelling delegations.

Speaking on Hitz 92 FM?s Sports Explosion recently, Craig Butler, manager and father of Reggae Boyz star Leon Bailey, blamed the JFF for a recent hamstring injury suffered by the Bayer Leverkusen winger, which he allegedly picked up while travelling with the national programme.

"Leon got a hamstring injury from flying economy with the last ticket the JFF bought for him. There were about five different stops, 13 hours of flying, and as a result of that ,we have to start paying for his own tickets to come here," Butler said.

This is not the first time the federation has come under criticism for the handling of travel arrangements for national players and teams. A year ago, they were criticised for their management of flights booked for the Reggae Girlz and their support staff ahead of the FIFA Women?s World Cup.

"That (connected flights and long travel hours) you cannot get rid of. Sometimes when we decide we are going to invite a player to a game, we know about the game two weeks before, but the coach doesn't tell you what his squad is going to be until a week after, (so) you only have a week to arrange the flights. Sometimes you bring a man from, let's say, Germany, but you can?t get a flight from Germany to London and then to Jamaica. We have to take him from Germany to New York, from New York to Miami, from Miami to Montego Bay, and from Montego Bay to Kingston," Ricketts explained.


"People can say whatever, but it's not like we are super-rich so the moment you get (the team) you can book your flight. We try our best. We have a travel agent that is contracted to the JFF. They do all our bookings and try their best at all times to give us the best route," he added.

Ricketts was then asked if he believed that the travel agency's ability was being questioned, to which he noted that JFF vice-president Bruce Gaynor works closely with the travel agency to find the best possible route.

"Probably, but the JFF has a vice-president that has responsibility for overseas matters, and he works closely with the travel agency and so does another employee of the JFF. They all work together for the best, so sometimes these things are just really unavoidable," Ricketts said.

Meanwhile, Gaynor argued that the comfort and welfare of the players are chief among the considerations but underlined that cost is always a major factor in deciding on routes for flights.

"We always seek to find the best and shortest route for the players," said Gaynor. "The JFF thinks about the players? welfare first and foremost, then the shortest distance and time. It has to be done within a scale of what we can afford. Most times, the players travel economy class because we are not able to afford business class. There are times when the JFF has made sacrifices, especially, with time constraints, to charter flights for the team, even recently, in the Nations League."