Leon Bailey's agent, JFF, at odds over why player was selected for Copa America campaign

By June 13, 2024

The Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) has found itself embroiled in yet another controversy following the announcement of the Reggae Boyz squad for the upcoming Copa America competition. The squad, revealed on Wednesday, included Aston Villa winger Leon Bailey, who quickly took to social media to label the inclusion as "misleading information." This development has sparked confusion and debate among fans and stakeholders alike.

JFF President Michael Ricketts, in an interview with Sportsmax.TV early Thursday, provided insight into the selection process and the circumstances surrounding Bailey's inclusion. The president explained that no player is selected for national duty until there is dialogue with the player’s club or representatives.

According to Ricketts, the situation stemmed from complex interactions between the JFF, Bailey, and his father and agent, Craig Butler. Butler, he said, had attempted to negotiate Bailey's availability for the national team by seeking the selection of players from his Phoenix Academy for both the national senior team and the national U20 team.

"We don’t speak with the players; we speak with the player's club or the player's agent. In this case, (Craig) Butler, got in contact with the General Secretary Dennis Chung,” Ricketts said.  “He wanted other players [from Phoenix Academy] in the U20 squad and he wants players in the senior team in exchange for Bailey. The General Secretary told him no, I can’t deal with that."

The president explained that the general secretary does not play a role in team selection, that is the responsibility of the coaching staff.

Ricketts noted that following his conversation with Chung, Butler then placed a call to Coach Heimir Hallgrimsson and during their conversation assured him that Bailey would not be available for Jamaica’s game against Mexico but would be available for the second and third group-stage games of the Copa America. Consequently, the coach decided to include Bailey in the squad based on this assurance.

Ricketts said he is unaware of any other matters that arose between Butler and the Reggae Boyz head coach.

"Having told the coach that Bailey would be available for the second and third games, the coach named Bailey as part of the squad," Ricketts stated.

Bailey, who has been suspended since the November international break for breaking curfew, had not featured in Jamaica's recent matches, including the 2026 World Cup qualifiers against the Dominican Republic and Dominica earlier this month. Following his suspension, Bailey announced on a podcast that he was taking a break from international football.

On social media Wednesday, Butler reiterated Bailey’s stance, stating that posts suggesting Bailey’s willingness to participate in the Copa America were misleading. "Posts made on social media that are surfacing at this time is a misrepresentation of his position," Butler wrote. "We wish the Reggae Boyz well in the Copa America competition and he, along with his management team, will continue to support the Jamaica National Team at all levels … change must come…Respect and One Love for all."

The squad was announced at Tracks and Records in Kingston on Wednesday evening when Coach Hallgrimsson told media that discussions between Butler and the JFF had gone well, indicating that several issues of concern were addressed, which presumably led him to believe that the player was available for selection.

“So the talk was between his (Bailey’s) agent and the JFF, so I would like to give a lot of credit to Craig and Mr Chung so they sorted out whatever was the issue between him and the JFF so after that I think he has always wanted to represent Jamaica,” the head coach said.

“I don’t want to talk too much about what went on at a meeting I wasn’t attending but I’m just grateful  that this happened and this was resolved. We have been talking about some of the issues he was talking about so we shared some of the same thoughts in so many matters and hopefully it will just help us grow, continue to improve to become more professional…”

However, in an interview on CVM Television Thursday morning, hours after Bailey’s social media post, Butler explained that he met with the JFF and he explained his concerns and they long-term reparations of the damage (of the relationship between the player and governing body.

He said they did not commit to any player whether Bailey of (Dujuan) Whisper Richards rejoining the national team because “we felt that we should take a stand (against the JFF’s lack of professionalism) but more importantly that Leon is taking a break.

“Leon hasn’t had a break since 2016 and he is taking a break to spend time with family. We explained to them that he is not ready but we will speak to him and they (JFF) are not to make any attempts to include him in the squad until I got confirmation or a communication from Leon, who is at Disney World with his family.”

Jamaica is set to open its Copa America campaign against Mexico on June 22, followed by matches against Ecuador on June 26 and Venezuela on June 30.

President Ricketts emphasized the importance of moving forward regardless of the situation. "The show must go on," he declared, underlining the need for the team to remain focused amid the ongoing controversy.

Several calls made to JFF General Secretary went unanswered.

 

Leighton Levy

Leighton Levy is a journalist with 28 years’ experience covering crime, entertainment, and sports. He joined the staff at SportsMax.TV as a content editor two years ago and is enjoying the experience of developing sports content and new ideas. At SportsMax.tv he is pursuing his true passion - sports.

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