JCA will not have a problem saying who they are backing – says Fitz Harris

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I had the opportunity to sit down with Mr. Audley Thomas, Director of  the Clarendon Cricket Board on the 22nd of February, he gave some insight into the JCA Senior Cup. Mr. Fitz Harris, Second Vice President of the Jamaica Cricket Association (JCA) was kind enough to shed additional light on what Mr. Thomas and I spoke about earlier this month. He also shared some positive (for Tallawahs fans) views on the current situation surrounding the Tallawahs franchise. Needless to say, he also had a few words on the CWI presidential election which takes place on March 24th.

              All things Senior Cup

Audley Thomas

In describing his role Mr Thomas said;

I am a (one of four) director on the Clarendon Cricket Board. I have been a director for over two years. We administer Clarendon Cricket. Our duty is to deal with various aspects of cricket for Clarendon. So, we have the Senior Cup team, which is the senior team, the Junior Cup team as well as administering kiddy cricket.

How does one get drafted into the Senior Cup team (for which there is no age limit)?

Prior to the competition, they would have had trial matches and based on performances, they (players) would have been selected.

How many rounds of competition are there before the knockout stages?

There are about twenty-four (24) teams; teams are in zones. They are placed in zones by the JCA. So, from the Clarendon zone there are about six (6) teams.

Fitz Harris

Is there a limit on the number of players called up from each Senior Cup team?

There are selectors who select players based on their performances. So, for example; Clarendon, St Catharine Parish and St. Catharine Club make up one franchise. The selectors will watch these games, pay attention to the performances and the better, say, fourteen (14) players from among these three teams will form one franchise team. So, you could have one parish or club having seven (7) or eight (8) players if they are that good. But what it (having selectors) does, (is) it creates a balance. It helps the players to get a fair look-in. If they are, you know, performing to get into the national team. What happened before, is that; from this competition, they would have been selected for national trials. We got a lot of complaints about people being overlooked and rural/urban bias or urban/rural bias and so on. The intention of the franchise is to eliminate all of these (biases).

What year was this franchise system implemented?

(We have had) two years of franchise. So it started in 2017.

And the name of the franchise competition?

Super League – JCA Super League

Your thoughts on Mark Neita’s comments on the insufficient rounds of competition in the Senior Cup.

I don’t know the context in which he said it in. If he is just speaking of the Senior Cup as a competition and he is saying five games are not enough, he may have a case. But, in terms of the national team, let’s look at a player who represents his parish; he (that player) now needs to perform in the Senior Cup to get into his franchise and then from franchise to get into the national team, he has a minimum of fifteen (15) matches. Now I could not see where fifteen (15)  matches is not enough for someone to impress (to get) into a program. There could be an argument that you probably need more than five (5) matches to get into that top group (of those who progress into the franchise teams) – I wouldn’t have a problem with that. If you were going to put them together now, for someone who wants to get into the national team, that certainly is enough.

Does this mean that there are no plans to extend the Senior Cup?

Well I wasn’t a part of the JCA – well, when I say the JCA I need to define that – the board of the JCA.  So, I wouldn’t necessarily know their plans, as such. I have just been elected to go on the board. So, I can’t say if there is a plan to extend it or not. I know that there is a plan to take a relook at the Senior Cup program. But, where the franchise is concerned, I don’t know.

Along with cries of insufficient matches, there were also cries of insufficient funding. Is there also a plan to revisit the investment into the Senior Cup?

As a matter of fact, I think, the thinking behind – I don’t want to use the word ‘revamp’ yet – taking a look or relook at the Senior Cup is to focus on, as far as my information is, how do we get the players better prepared, how do we ensure that the facilities the players use are as best as they can be and how do we ensure that the clubs and parishes have reasonable funding support from the JCA. So, I know that those are three critical areas that would form the basis of the relook. There may be one or two others, but that’s part of the thinking. Now, in that whole conversation, it may come out that there is need for more matches at the Senior Cup level. But, I think the focus more is how do we get these players a little better prepared, how do we ensure that wherever they are playing the facilities are a little bit better and of course the funding.   

Therefore, in respect to Clarendon, who current plays at Jamalco (Jamaica Aluminum Company), it would not be a case of getting this team a personal home but improving Jamalco?

Not everything would apply to every team. Clarendon is fortunate to have a good home ground. By the way, this (Clarendon’s Senior Cup home games) plays here as part of Jamalco’s cooperate ‘give back’, so to speak. They sponsor the home situation for Clarendon. It’s not a charge to Clarendon. So, a lot of kudos to Jamalco for that. But, Clarendon Cricket Board is developing a ground of their own with support from the CHASE fund. That’s at Sevens, the old sugar estate ground at Sevens. So, probably next year this time they’ll be two very good grounds in the parish.

For those of us who are not familiar with the CHASE fund?

This is a fund that was set-up some time ago. A former prime minister – PJ Patterson – had this idea. It focuses on culture, arts, health, sports and education. What happened, a couple years ago, there was this initiative to fund the revival of cricket clubs in terms of infrastructural development – these were run-down quite a bit. The idea was to provide some funding to sort of renovate and improve and bring them (the facilities)  back to something like the ‘glory days’. So, it’s actually referred to as the ‘legacy of cricket’ fund. And then, later on, the parish Cricket Associations were added to that. It is that fund which gives parish Cricket Associations a million dollars, per year, for three years. It is that fund that Clarendon is tapping into to start the rebuilding of that ground. That is in partnership with CHASE and the JCA.

       The Jamaica Tallawahs

You mentioned PJ Patterson and so I have to touch on the Tallawahs and the very real possibility of the franchise being moved. Does it seem, to those in high places, that cricket – in particular – is on the radar of this government, at all?

 Surely, yes. I think what you are getting at is whether or not the government should be supporting initiatives of the Tallawahs. The case is to be made by the Tallawahs. In any endeavour you do, once it’s business, you have to make decisions based on the impact of your business. I don’t know and I’ve never seen any data to suggest that the input of the government would yield more returns for the government or for the country, in general. Surely, it would be a good gesture if the government would make some sort of a support contribution to the Tallawahs; but, I’m sure that they do. Probably the venue that matches are played – Sabina Park – which, as you know, loans are on that venue. These are all government loans. I am sure there is some amount of relaxation of fees (for the Tallawah franchise) and so on there. It’s very likely that some of the taxes, and so on, are waived. Those are usually not communicated to the public, but one would have to sit and go into deep details about what is meant by ‘contribution’. The impression I get by what I hear on the news (is that) the Tallawahs seem to want an annual ‘gift’ and I don’t know that that would be appealing to the government. I don’t see it.

Do you know if the CPL will be back in Jamaica, even for one last time in 2019?

I’ve heard that all the matches will be here. I have also heard that they are thinking of playing elsewhere. Recently, I’ve heard something, too, that the franchise itself might move to Cayman. I think that the whole issue of the Tallawahs is too unsettled. And they just need to make up their minds if they want to be in Jamaica, or not. I don’t think it’s either here or there, really, what they want to do, personally. Jamaica will always have a franchise in my mind. What needs to happen is that the proper communication needs to be had in the right way; they can’t communicate in the media. As I said, I am not close enough to the action. But, based on what I’ve seen and heard, I am not in the least impressed with the approach of the Tallawahs.

When you say in your mind, we will always have a franchise; what is this based on? Because I don’t think the owners can keep the name, because it’s something cultural.

That’s an interesting point. Let me talk about the name first. I don’t know how the name came about;  whether it’s a trademark owned by them (the franchise). It wouldn’t make any sense, in my mind, if you are based somewhere else and you’re called the ‘Jamaica Tallawahs’. I am pretty sure that the cricket authorities and the government could recall it, if such a situation ever happened. But, to the bigger question of whether or not we’ll have a franchise: listen, Jamaica has the largest population in terms of the cricket playing nations in the Caribbean. Jamaica is supposed to be one of the favourite markets of the CPL. It would serve the CPL no useful purpose, nor the development of West Indies cricket, for that matter, to not have a franchise in Jamaica. I am pretty confident also, that enough interest would suddenly rise to the surface were it to be that a vacancy should appear in Jamaica. That’s why I am saying, it’s neither here nor there to me, what the owners of the franchise want to do. What I think needs to happen is that the proper dialogue needs to be had. And with the proper dialogue, I’m sure some sort of arrangement can be made where all the parties are happy. You speak to some people and you’ll find that they don’t think that the necessary discussions were ever had. I am not even sure if the parties that are engaged are the parties that should engage. (I am not sure the parties engaged) are even fully aware of what they are supposed to do. Because you tend to hear about the Tallawahs (when it’s) something to do with need. Think about it, you tend not to hear anything about the Tallawahs unless it’s something to do with need. Now, it has to be more than that. We have seen where the West Indies board has said that they think government should support cricket because a tour brings in ‘x’ number of people and ‘x’ amount of us dollars (and so on). Now, I don’t know if that data is available, but I have not seen it where the Tallawahs is concerned.  So, it is just basically saying “hey, we are here playing cricket and people come to watch us. So you need to support us”. I think it requires a little bit more than that. That’s why I am saying, that will form part of an informed conversation between the relevant parties. I am sure once the business model is discussed, the objectives are discussed (and) a clear strategy is outlined; I am sure an arrangement can be made (where) all the parties are happy.

        CWI Presidential Election

Finally, on the upcoming presidential election. What is the JCA’s stance?

Well, the JCA has not made any revelation on it’s position. Bear in mind that the JCA had a change or renewal of administration on just Thursday (February 28). What I am aware of is that the outgoing board nominated the current President for re-election. That, on the surface, would suggest to me that what they did was to keep the floor open for the new administration to take it further if they wish. Because if, and I think Mr Cameron was nominated elsewhere so it would not have mattered, but let’s say he wasn’t. It would mean that the new administration probably would not have anything to think about. Now the fact that they did nominate Mr. Cameron, could also suggest that they are in favour of his re-election. (That is) the outgoing board. But I made the point because they nominated him but did not come public to say they are supporting or not supporting (Mr Cameron); which I think is a decent move. Because you wouldn’t want an outgoing board to make that comment and then they are out of office and a new board comes and you either abide by what was decided or change and then you could have all sorts of issues. So the new administration, which to a large extent, is a returned one; they will sit down and make a decision where they want to go. I am not quite sure (if we will be going public when we meet and a decision is taken or we’ll stay quiet). This is a decision for the board. In the past, we’ve had a bit of both. I am sure, at the appropriate time, the JCA will not have a problem saying who they are (backing).

*Up until the 3rd of March, according to Mr Harris, the board had not yet taken a decision.

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