Schoolboy football restart now set for November
President of the Inter-secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA), Keith Wellington, says the start date for this year's high school football competitions has been pushed back to November as they are yet to receive the required approvals from the Government.
The main competitions are the Manning Cup, which is contested by Corporate Area high schools, and the daCosta Cup, played among rural schools.
Both competitions usually begin in September each year, but the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in the cancellation of the 2020 season, has forced a delay in the start of the 2021 season. In August ISSA had proposed an October start date for both competitions. However, Wellington told STAR Sports yesterday that because of the recent spike in COVID-19 cases, they are yet to receive their protocols from the Government and therefore they had no other alternative but to push back the start of the competition.
"We are proposing a November start date for the competitions," said Wellington. "Remember that in order for us to have the competition, the Government, through the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) and the Ministry of Health, has to approve the protocols that we have in place and that is a process that all sporting competitions have to go through now before resumption can take place," he said.
He pointed out that his organisation is very confident that the protocols that they have submitted will receive the approvals necessary from the Jamaican Government.
"We are positive based on the current circumstances. We think that the protocols are workable but we also understand that there is also the issue of COVID-19 and we are hoping that things will get better in the next four weeks and that we will also have more people taking the vaccine, which could create a safer environment for the competition to take place," Wellington said.
Lenworth Hyde, coach of daCosta Cup champions Clarendon College, welcomed the proposed November start date because he said it will give his team a lot more time to prepare for the competition.
"This will give us another month to prepare and so I think it is good for us," said Hyde.
However, Ludlow Bernard, head coach of many-time Manning champions Kingston College, said that constant delays to the start of the competition have been having a negative effect on his team.
"I think that they are heading in the direction where it would be said there will be no competition," said Bernard. "The longer it takes to restart, then it is the closer it gets to some of the other seasons for other sports. You have youngsters who participate in football, track and field, cricket and other sports and clearly there is going to be some confusion at that time," he said.
Meanwhile, the ISSA boss said 55 daCosta Cup schools and 23 Manning Cup have been confirmed for his year's schoolboy football competitions. The number of teams for each competition is significantly less than 2019 when 81 teams competed in the daCosta Cup and 41 in the Manning Cup tournament.
"I think this is a good support for the competition and that would be, in both cases, more than 50 per cent of the schools that normally participate," said Wellington.
"Bearing in mind the current circumstances, we understand that a number of schools would have challenges to be involved financially and as well as logistical issues relating to training and abiding by the protocols that have been put in place," he said.