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The Barbados Football Association’s (BFA) Premier League will have a later than usual start when the domestic season kicks off next year.
While 74 teams are expected to parade at the Usain Bolt Sports Complex on January 14 to signal the start of the local competitions, the Premier League will begin on March 11 at a new-look Wildey facility. This confirmation was made by BFA’s general secretary Edwyn Wood in an interview with the SATURDAY SUN yesterday.
“We’ve had some minor delays with the project. These were as a result of rain, and then we were told by the company that is producing the bleachers that they wouldn’t be ready until January. Additionally, the generator for the lighting system was held up a bit and that only arrived on Thursday. Around this time the construction companies usually take their break during the Christmas period, so the civil works are halted now until they return in early January,” Wood revealed.
“In light of that, what we have decided to do is open the entire season with the opening parade which still pertains to the Premier League and Divisions one, two and three at the Usain Bolt Sports Complex. Once we are past that we will let the lower divisions – one, two and three – go ahead and play football, as is the custom, since their matches play at venues across the island. However the Premier League will begin on March 11 at the Wildey Turf when construction is completed,” he explained.
It was in October that refurbishment work began on the AstroTurf to install lights and bleachers. The estimated cost of the lighting system is $1.2 million, while the bleacher seating will cost just under $1.1 million. On completion of the project, the bleachers would accommodate approximately 1 645 fans.
Both projects are being managed by local engineering company, Mahy-Ridley-Hazzard. The bleachers are being supplied by Sports Systems Canada, while the base for these is being done by local contractors C.O. Williams Construction. The lighting system is supplied by Musco Lighting of the United States, in conjunction with local contractors Next Generation Electrical and C.O. Williams Construction.
“We didn’t want to start the Premier League unless the facility is finished. Our new completion date is mid-February, but we’ve said March 11, which would allow for any more delays and to give the contractors time to do all they need to for the first game of the Premier League season to kick off under new lighting,” he said.
Wood also added with the implementation of the lights, they would have more control over football in terms of scheduling, and with the bleachers in place they would be able to properly host international matches.
While there are seven less licenced clubs than last year, in a revamped two-zone format, 12 teams, including six former champions, will battle for bragging rights and the grand prize of $25 000. The end of the competition will see three teams being demoted to Division One. The new format will also affect Division One, which saw an increase to 14 teams.
“I am happy to say that the clubs have been very cooperative in getting their licencing business sorted out, and this allows us in turn to plan the season much better. With the transfer window closing today (yesterday), there has been a hive of activity and this looks set to be an interesting one,” Wood added.
The Premier League teams however will not be sitting idle without football until March. The BFA has organised a pre-season tournament for this division, which will commence on January 21 with matches being played on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursday at venues across the island. (RA)