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A THORNY ISSUE: Game’s image takes a beating

ANDI THORNHILL, [email protected]

A THORNY ISSUE: Game’s image takes a beating

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THE INK HAD BARELY DRIED on my article about Pinelands getting a 21-0 caning from UWI Blackbirds before Rendezvous were thumped 14-0 by the same opponents and surrendered at half-time.

The scenarios were similar from the viewpoint that both teams were not at full strength and, in the Rendezvous case, they managed just eight players, including at least two from their management.

At half-time they were forced to throw in the towel after two of the eight were injured and they didn’t have a quorum for the second half. I couldn’t believe this was the same team that had contested the knockout final the previous weekend. Not only that, Rendezvous are the team that renewed huge interest in local football through their Vincentian connections and their stylish play in recent years.

What a mockery of the system and what a way for the world to make mock sport of the Digicel Premier League. It was an extremely poor reflection of the standard of local football and no doubt tarnished its image even beyond the shores of Barbados.

The news travelled like wildfire via social media, in particular, and I had several enquiries about what went on in those games under the microscope.

A lot of grumbling

Notwithstanding that just last season there was a lot of grumbling about the result of two First Division games on the last day of the season that may have had an impact on promotion to the Premiership.

Granted the teams involved were cleared of any wrongdoing by a Barbados Football Association investigative committee, which solicited help from the hemispheric body CONCACAF in resolving the issue, but it didn’t prevent the malicious talk from making the rounds. The perceived damage had already been done.

I am sure similar sentiments are being expressed about the recent matches and it will in some way detract just a little from the hard work of the Blackbirds, who were crowned champions after only their second season in the Premiership. Totally unfair, but it is what it is.

These developments don’t only depreciate the standard of the leagues but also give one massive slap in the face of the sponsors who must be embarrassed to associate their brands in these circumstances.

Sponsorship is a privilege and not a right, so teams must take such into consideration, especially in an environment where people are watching their pennies like guarding a prison.

Corporate backlash

In essence, there can be a corporate backlash for major indiscretions, so we have to be extremely careful how we act on and off the field.

Truth be told, corporate entities play a key role in helping to keep the youth constructively engaged in wholesome activity that could keep them from making decisions that could be detrimental to them and society.

The long and short of it, though, is that ultimate responsibility for controlling these matters rests with the BFA.

So what can they put in place to stamp out what might seem to be some grey areas in the outcome of matches?

In terms of not being able to field a quorum, I think the association should consider docking points from offenders for the following season. This approach hurts more than fines because, while you find money to settle a matter, docking points leaves you at a greater disadvantage, especially if you’re challenging for the title.

This method has been very effective in dealing with teams who don’t show up for the ceremonial opening parade at the start of the season. Eden Lodge and Youth Milan felt the pinch in this respect in recent seasons.

It is sad that we must now consider taking such a step because years ago teams had much more pride in themselves and the communities they represented. It could be, too, that loyalty isn’t as important as before because there are too many club hoppers nowadays. So if we can’t identify where a player’s navel string is buried we can’t be sure he has any real commitment to any particular team.

It is truly unfortunate that football, which has a perennial image problem, now has another self-inflicted wound to deal with.

• Andi Thornhill is an experienced, award-winning sports journalist.