Ricketts clings on to power in Jamaica after Congress postponed, but faces suspicion of vote-rigging

January 16 – Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) president Michael Ricketts is clinging on to power following the postponement of an electoral JFF congress on Sunday.

The postponement follows a request for a mandatory injunction to be imposed by Jamaica’s Supreme Court allowing Patricia Garel, president of Beach Soccer Jamaica, to participate in the upcoming election of JFF officers.

The court refused to impose the injunction but did order an interim injunction be put in place for a period of 28 days pending further determination by the Court.

Garel argues that the JFF gave recognition to Beach Soccer when it was invited to send three representatives to the congress on September 24 last year, and that this is reflected in the minutes of the JFF. Beach Soccer Jamaica is recognised by Beach Soccer Worldwide, an affiliate of FIFA.

However, after seemingly recognising Garel’s organisation, a separate Beach Soccer organisation was created under the name Beach Football Association of Jamaica. That organisation is co-chaired by JFF vice president Bruce Gaynor, and another director of JFF, Patrick Malcolm.

The JFF granted it the right to represent beach football in Jamaica and to have voting rights. Garel was booted out the congress and into unrecognised status as a result.

This is where the plot thickens. In the voting Congress that should have been held on Sunday, Gaynor is a member of Rickett’s election slate of officials. In effect, by granting Gaynor’s new beach soccer entity voting rights, Ricketts was ultimately guaranteeing his presidential election another vote.

Ricketts has a very credible challenger for the presidency in the form of one the JFF’s current board members, Raymond Anderson. Anderson has been a JFF board member since 1987 and was a JFF vice president from 1996 to 2002 – he knows the scene and is real danger for Ricketts’ ambition to continue.

Ricketts’ JFF presidency has been controversial from the start. In February 2022 he lost a defamation case brought against him for homophobic comments he made about rival football administrator Ainsley Lowe around his election campaign in 2017.

The case ended in the Jamaican Supreme Court with Ricketts being ordered to pay fines for defamation, malice, aggravated and exemplary damages. He also had to issue a public apology to Lowe.

Ricketts is also responsible for the alienation of his women’s football team, who won world support and acclaim at the 2023 Women’s World Cup when they qualified for last 16.

The team’s battle for funding support from Ricketts and the JFF had been a long running, and at times shameful story, and saw the women rely on the support of Cedilla Marley and their own self-finding efforts to put a programme together. Their success further highlighted the lack of support from Ricketts.

Post World Cup Ricketts even withheld the player bonuses given by FIFA – they have now reportedly been paid. This led to the Jamaican women refusing to play for their country in the inaugural W Gold Cup qualifiers. As a result the Jamaicans failed to qualify for the finals or even a play-in slot for the biggest international women’s tournament ever to be played within in Concacaf and in which the four top South American nations – including Brazil and Argentina – will play.

The JFF issued a statement saying: “In light of the foregoing, the Jamaica Football Federation wishes to advise that the Voting Congress of the Jamaica Football Federation scheduled for January 14, 2024, is postponed until further notice. The administration of the Jamaica Football Federation will continue to be headed by President Michael Ricketts and will continue to advise its delegates of any developments.”

The Jamaican court will make its observation within 28 days but FIFA and Concacaf could very likely step in before then. Ricketts will have done well if he manages to slither his way through this latest scandal and retain his presidency.

Contact the writer of this story at moc.l1709108375labto1709108375ofdlr1709108375owedi1709108375sni@n1709108375osloh1709108375cin.l1709108375uap1709108375