When the Uefa congress rejected Jersey’s appeal to be an international football nation back in February many football loving islanders were left disappointed and frustrated.
Fast forward seven months and the community are buzzing after the new possibilities which have arisen, due to the work of former island player, James Scott, who has managed to enter a team to ‘represent the people of Jersey’, called ‘Parishes of Jersey’, within Conifa.
Conifa is an association made for states, minorities, stateless people and regions unaffiliated by FIFA, so when Scott saw the opportunity he jumped at the chance.
I spoke to Scott about how it all started, his reply; ‘It all stemmed from when Jersey weren’t accepted within UEFA, I went online and looked for an alternative and found Conifa.’
Scott continued ‘I followed the World Cup in London with great interest and recognised a couple of players from the Isle of Man team, from Gotland, and then realised it was the Isle of Man side, just not called the Isle of Man. I thought if they can do it, then why can’t we? I contacted the secretary of Conifa and it took off from there.’
Scott said that Conifa were always keen to get Jersey and Guernsey involved with the set up, suggesting that the islands are ‘key smaller nations’. This made the process smoother, especially compared to the UEFA link in the past, which meant the whole agreement gathered momentum rapidly, with it only taking a few months in total to complete.
On the slightly more negative reactions from some islanders, Scott replied ‘That’s football. There have been people who have come to us with their concerns about it. This included queries about possible conflicts with teams already in Conifa, with regards to a political point of view. I spoke to a couple of local politicians, former Chief Minister Ian Gorst and Steve Pallett, and they looked at the names involved already and came back to me saying there are no conflicts of interest.’
The former Island player stated that he wanted it to be known that ‘it’s a team representing ‘the people of Jersey’ and we are trying to make it a community team (#YourClub) and for that reason, St Peters FC’s ground will be where we play home games, and Rozel will be involved with the social media side of things, with other teams within the local football community involved as much as possible. We decided to call it the ‘Parishes of Jersey’ as it made perfect sense as most of the teams who play in the Combination League represent a parish, so it makes perfect sense to represent the history of club football on the island too.’
From responses that have come out on social media sites, such as a Twitter, there is clearly a big buzz among the elite players on the island, with Scott coming to an agreement with the JFA which will allow players to play for both sides, meaning more football for the islanders, juggling this new adventure with JFA and club commitments.
However, there is still one last hurdle to overcome, and that’s funding. If ‘Parishes of Jersey’ were to go to the 2020 Conifa World Cup then it would cost serious money. Scott explained ‘We are not hiding the fact that the finance side is going to be our biggest barrier. If the 2020 World Cup is in North America, Tokyo or places like that obviously it would cost to get a squad over there. We are going to put sponsorship packages together and approach people to try and secure that financial backing.’
Scott then dropped a bombshell, saying that ‘Parishes of Jersey’ could have their first game ‘before the end of October’, with the added bonus that it will be played here on the island at St Peter’s. This would be a great opportunity for the islands football lovers to see first hand what the whole project is about, and would bring in more support for the team.
Whilst it still has its financial challenges, many islanders have welcomed the idea of playing and watching competitive football against teams further afield than just the Channel Islands and the UK. It will only improve the level of football played on the island, and I for one can’t wait to see it all in action whenever that first game kicks off.
Huge credit to Scott and his team for making this effort, and I wish them all the best of luck in the future, on and off the pitch.