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‘Unattached’ label draws Butler ire

Published:Wednesday | February 21, 2024 | 12:15 AMGregory Bryce/Staff Reporter
Craig Butler
Craig Butler

THE RELATIONSHIP between the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) and the Craig Butler-coached Phoenix Academy has remained tense following the recent announcement of the Jamaica under-20 squad down to compete in the Concacaf Championship qualifiers.

Butler, despite having Robino Gordon, Akeem Bernard, and Denzel McKenzie in the squad, is taking issue with the labelling of those players, as ‘unattached’.

Butler believes this label has been intentionally placed on his players as a personal slight against him because of much-publicised clashes with the JFF in the past.

According to Butler, his players are being made to feel unwelcome in the national set-up by the JFF’s administration, and is upset at the lack of acknowledgement for Phoenix Academy.

“The administration would like to see less Phoenix players included, so clearly that is why they have resorted to not acknowledging where the players are from. If a player is listed as unattached, that means he has no club or an academy. To say at this point that they’re not attached is only a slight to try and disrespect Phoenix.

“After this slight again by the JFF, it is very difficult for us to feel welcome. The players are upset. They want to represent their national team and they want also to be acknowledged as representatives of their clubs and to deny it, it has hurt them. It is total disrespect.”

However, JFF general secretary Dennis Chung says that while the Phoenix players were intentionally listed as unattached, it was not done to slight the academy.

Instead, Chung insisted it is because Phoenix Academy is not acknowledged as a club, registered with the JFF as a member.

“It was intentional to put unattached but as to why we did it, the fact of the matter is that our policy is that we recognise clubs or organisations that are registered directly with the JFF or registered through parishes. We have a safeguarding policy so we have to ensure that when we list an organisation, we have to be sure that they are registered.”

Butler maintains that Phoenix Academy is a registered organisation in Jamaica. He explained that the academy has been registered with the St Ann Football Association in accordance with JFF policy.

He points to the recent transfer of Dujuan ‘Whisper’ Richards to Premier League outfit Chelsea as proof. Butler argues the transfer, which was approved by FIFA, confirms Phoenix Academy as a legitimate academy, operating in Jamaica.

“Phoenix All Stars Football Academy is registered with the St Ann FA,” he said. “Whisper was transferred legally from Phoenix All Stars Football Academy on FIFA Connect which is a worldwide transfer site that makes sure that it’s done properly. So all our players are all registered members and are on the FIFA Connect, which has been fully approved by the JFF,” Butler said.

In response, Chung maintained that the internal checks by the JFF do not have Phoenix Academy listed as a registered member of the St Ann FA.

“That would be news to me,” he said.

“It is no intentional slight against any organisation. We hear what people are saying, but we have a responsibility to be careful. When the check was done internally, we don’t see where they were registered with St Ann. Then why aren’t they representing the parish in their competitions? Anyone who registers with a parish has an obligation to compete in the competitions.”