RSPL gets underway today after busy offseason at the transfer market
File photo shows action from a Red Stripe Premier League (RSPL) game between Portmore United and Tivoli Gardens, last season.
The new season of the Red Stripe Premier League (RSPL) will finally kick off on Sunday, 24 days after it was suspended indefinitely by the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF).
The JFF decided on August 31 to suspend the RSPL indefinitely because of a spat among match officials, Montego Bay United and the league administrators - the Premier League Clubs Association (PLCA) - over payments.
In a press release issued on August 31, three days before the season was scheduled to start, the JFF listed a series of administrative failings on the part of the PLCA, which it said needed urgent remedy before the new season could begin.
Among the issues listed was the failure of the PLCA to deliver grants to Montego Bay United Football Club equal to the grants received by every other team that participated in the 2016-2017 staging of the RSPL.
The JFF also noted that it had been advised that the sum of $4,060,482.20 was owed to referees, assistant referees and referee assessors for unpaid salaries for the 2016-17 staging of the league.
The suspension was lifted by the JFF last Monday following fruitful discussions among all the relevant parties at a meeting.
Four games will mark the opening of the new season on Sunday, with the other two scheduled for Monday.
The reigning champions Arnett Gardens and the beaten finalists Montego United, along with the two promoted teams - Cavalier and Sandals South Coast - will take the field on Monday.
Most attentions are expected to be at the Harbour View Stadium, which features a late fixture between the home team Harbour View and Montego Bay United at 7:00 pm.
Harbour View, who have won the Premiership in 2000, 2007, 2010 and 2013, have been struggling for the past two seasons, but have undergone wholesale changes during the off-season after placing ninth last season, their worst in the competition.
General Manager Clyde Juridieni explained that with the struggles the club has experienced in recent years, things had to change.
“What we have tried to do is change everything,” he said.
“Starting from the top, head coach Ludlow Bernard will concentrate on Kingston College and allow younger coaches led by former national player Ricardo 'Bibbi' Gardener to focus on Harbour View, along with Fabian Taylor. Additionally, Oneil ‘Bigga’ Smith, another former player has come in and is working as manager, assisting Oneil Johnson, who is helping me with sponsorship and promotion.”
Juridieni said that changes have been made in other areas as well.
“On the player side, we have exported about 17 players in the last three years, young international players like Damion Lowe and Kemar Lawrence, who are doing well, and we have to fill that void,” Juridieni said.
“In the last year that talent level has been a little depleted so we have bolstered by getting back two of our senior players, Akeem Priestly (midfielder) and Sean Fraser (midfielder), who helped us last year with leadership and performance. Also, former national player Rosario Harriott and young Javion Brown, at KC, will be back in the fold. We have also brought in about 15 or 16 new young talented players from across the island who will bolster both the talent level and the depth of the squad.”
The general manager said the club was also ramping up revenue-generating activities for the club.
“We’re doing a little more marketing to new sponsors and aligning with some schools and universities to build up our supporters and we are trying to launch some new merchandising. So, we are attacking from all angles and hoping to get a better result overall,” he concluded.
Montego Bay United, who were dethroned of their title last season, could struggle after losing some key players among them teenage standout Jourdain Fletcher and Dushane Beckford.
Attentions will also be at the Barbican Complex, where Boys' Town host last season's semi-finalists Humble Lion, with new coach in Lenworth Hyde, at 3:30 pm.
Andrew Price, coach of Boys' Town FC , said the club is aiming for a top-six position this season, despite losing one of their top players.
Boys Town have struggled in recent years and flirted with relegation for the past two seasons.
However, Price believes this season will see a change in fortunes for the club.
“Our ambition is to be in the top six and we will see where it takes us,” Price said at the launch of the new Premier League season at the headquarters of the Jamaica Football Federation on Thursday.
“That is our ambition. That is our goal. Once you are in the top six you have an opportunity to win the title.”
Price revealed that the team lost its top striker from last season, but believes the club has done enough to compensate for his absence.
“We have lost Shamar Nicholson, he is going to play first division football in Slovenia, so that is going to be a big loss. That is someone who gave us 15 goals last season, but I believe we have the necessary players who can come together and give us that type of scoring and punch up front,” said Price, who revealed that additions have been made to the squad.
“A new player has come in, Phillip Peddie, who used to play for Maverley and who helped them in their relegation woes last season by scoring eight goals and we believe that he can come and give us some punch up front so, coupled with our experienced players and some of our youth, I believe we will be able to be competitive.”
Humble Lion have strengthened their squad with the prized signing of national midfielder Romario Campbell.
Campbell will be joined by Darren McLeod from Montego Bay United, Jamalco's Oakum Henry and Rahju Watson, Sporting Central Academy's Romu Parkinson, as well as Marcus Garvey United's Matthew Taylor and Rohan Ranger.
Waterhouse and the University of the West Indies (UWI), who will face off at the UWI Mona Bowl, have also brought in players through the transfer market.
Waterhouse, who struggled last season, added 11 players to their squad, including Dasha Satchwell, Rickcardo Harriott, Shamar Dyer, Rodico Wellington, Denardo Thomas and Ricardo Thomas.
UWI, who were impressive right up until the semi-final of the competition where they faltered, have acquired just four new players, Cavalier's Oshane Roberts and Ryan MIller, Montego Bay United's Fabian McCarthy and Harbour View's Stephen Barnett.
Arnett Gardens, who will stat their title defence on Monday against Sandals South Coast, were also very busy in the transfer market by adding 14 players to their roster.
Even busier, were Cavalier, who played in the Super League last season, their second year since relegation.
Cavalier added 21 players to their ranks, showing the club's determination to remain in the top flight this season.
Boys' Town vs Humble Lion at Barbican Complex at 3:30 pm
Reno vs Tivoli Gardens at Frome Complex at 3:30 pm
UWI F.C. vs Waterhouse at UWI Mona Bowl at 3:30 pm
Harbour View vs Montego Bay United at Harbour View Stadium at 7:00 pm
Portmore United vs Cavalier at Anthony Spaulding Sports Complex at 5:45 pm
Arnett Gardens vs Sandals South Coast at Anthony Spaulding Sports Complex at 8:45 pm