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PREMIER SHIFT

Clubs shifting focus on youth to bolster football business

Published:Sunday | December 5, 2021 | 12:14 AMLivingston Scott - Sunday Gleaner Writer
Cavalier’s Rudolph Speid
Cavalier’s Rudolph Speid
Portmore United FC’s Lenworth Hyde
Portmore United FC’s Lenworth Hyde
Harbour View FC’s Ludlow Bernard
Harbour View FC’s Ludlow Bernard

Members of the youthful Cavalier Soccer Club football team celebrate after their penalty shoot-out win over Waterhouse in the Jamaica Premier League final at the UWI-JFF Captain Horace Burrell Centre of Excellence.
Members of the youthful Cavalier Soccer Club football team celebrate after their penalty shoot-out win over Waterhouse in the Jamaica Premier League final at the UWI-JFF Captain Horace Burrell Centre of Excellence.
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LOCAL PREMIER League clubs appear set to continue their new thrust of focusing on young players, with a paradigm shift aimed at capitalising fully on the business of football to make money. The trend of clubs fielding mostly youngsters kicked in...

LOCAL PREMIER League clubs appear set to continue their new thrust of focusing on young players, with a paradigm shift aimed at capitalising fully on the business of football to make money.

The trend of clubs fielding mostly youngsters kicked in for the truncated version of the Jamaica Premier League this season, with many teams fielding players coming straight out of the Manning and daCosta Cup competitions.

The move was largely coincidental, with several clubs forced to adjust as their senior players sought other forms of employment to deal with responsibilities, including family, while action was forced off the pitch for over 18 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cavalier Soccer Club, the Premier League champions, has had a long-established culture of fielding youthful teams, as they created a pathway to sell players, especially in Europe.

They had an average age of 21 and their attacking trident of Shaneil Thomas, Ronaldo Webster and Dwayne Atkinson were all top players in the 2019 Corporate Area Manning Cup competition.

BENEFITS TO BE GAINED

“With Cavalier doing so well and being the youngest team to win the competition a lot of clubs are now seeing the benefits to be gained,” said Rudolph Speid, technical director of Cavalier.

“I expect the trend to get even more as people start to realise the benefits.”

Continuing, he said: “You are still going to have, this season, players who sat out last season reporting for work. But I do not expect a dramatic change, it will be roughly the same but more and more we will see clubs taking younger players in their squad.”

Ludlow Bernard, head coach of Harbour View, said the clubs were forced to change their philosophy and agreed this shift will likely continue as the younger players are more marketable.

“I do not think clubs really wanted to go (with) this trend. I think it is more a matter of the reality of the situation,” said Bernard.

“In some instances with football not being played for such a long time, a lot of the older players with responsibilities found another source of income,” he explained. “They abandoned the football field to seek employment in other areas.

“Clubs have also made adjustments to their approach and philosophy by inviting and including younger players because they see it as a source of economic benefit.

“These players are more marketable and more attractive. So clubs like Cavalier and Portmore will go for these types of players and other clubs are seeing the rewards that can be gained from investing in young players as against the older ones,” commented Bernard, who also coaches high school boy team, Kingston College.

Further evidence of the benefits to clubs with a younger complement were shared by Lenworth Hyde, a former national player who has won the Premier League with Portmore United and at schoolboy level with Clarendon College.

The former national midfield general noted that it costs far less to compensate young players just exiting high school and clubs across the league took the opportunity to give these former Manning and daCosta Cup players fresh out of schoolboy football an important role in their team last season.

“Most of it is coming from the fact that the club does not have any money to pay these big senior players because senior players are asking for a lot of money,” Hyde related.

“When you go for the youths, the demand is not as much,” he added.

Transfer fees, Hyde noted, is another factor working in the favour of the youth.

“Some players moved to other clubs, but now they want to come back the transfer fee clubs are charging are ridiculous,” he opined. The club is not willing to pay that type of money to get back a player that is 27, 28 years old.

“There is not much future with those players because very rarely you get those players overseas and and clubs are not willing to pay that type of money to get them back just to win the Premier League.”

livingston.scott@gleanerjm.com