Stringent vetting the solution for troubled clubs
Bermuda’s sports clubs are facing various challenges as they try to tackle antisocial behaviour at their grounds, the presidents of seven football clubs said on Thursday night during an Alpha Symposium at CedarBridge Academy hosted by Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc.
Banning the sale of alcohol at clubs during certain times, clamping down on illicit drugs and removing unruly fans are some of the steps taken by clubs, but there are no easy fixes to the problems that is a reflection of the island’s societal ills. Just last weekend a footballer for Wolves, Raymond Butterfield, was fatally stabbed outside Blue Waters Anglers Club on East Broadway. Another footballer, 19-year-old Mikiel Thomas, has been charged with causing his death.
“Has Government involved itself with the presidents of the clubs, to try to sort out this problem,” one member of the audience asked the panel of presidents.
Those on the panel were Neil Paynter (St George’s), Alfred Maybury (Somerset Cricket Club), Ray Jones (Devonshire Colts), Jason Wade (Southampton Rangers), Nadine Henry (Devonshire Recreation Club), Sherwin Dill (North Village) and Michael Trott, who is the interim president of PHC.
“Government gets involved when something happens, it’s a reaction,” said Wade who took over the presidency at Southampton Rangers last September. “I get an e-mail from Government ministers when something negative happens.
“Do they get involved, yes. Have they offered assistance, yes, but do they offer at the right time? No. That’s critical, in that there should be constant involvement with the clubs. Government ministers should come to our presidents’ meetings; it should be standard.
“Do they get involved? Yes they get involved, we get calls after incidents happen.”
Several former club executives attended the forum, with Nandi Outerbridge, the new Minister of Social Development and Sport, and new education commissioner Freddie Evans also present, along with past and present presidents of the Bermuda Football Association, Larry Mussenden and Mark Wade.
Dill, who has returned for another term as North Village president, said clubs are hard-pressed financially with smaller crowds, dwindling revenue and the cost of providing necessary security at games. Violence is becoming more commonplace at clubs, not only during sporting events.
“It has come now where we have to look at the players we are allowing in our programmes and have them vetted,” Dill said. “If there are issues that they may bring to the safety and security of the masses, then we have to make a strong stand as to how we are going to help this individual and make sure the masses are not impacted.
“We are challenged on senior match days, certainly with the use of marijuana, particularly. It’s pretty costly for us, something like $400 a game, to have security, but we’re still challenged with being able to control the use of certain substances at the field. We are not in the era when we were getting thousands of people to games; ten or 20 years ago when we didn’t have that threat of violence.
“We’re still looking at how we’re going to generate revenue. Of course bars at clubs remain the main revenue generator. About five years ago we had a closer interaction with the police service who were coming to the clubs unannounced. During that period we actually saw a cleanup of certain elements at the club.
“I’m saying we have to improve our security measures, work closely with the police and take better control of our grounds.”
Moderator Dwayne Caines asked if the clubs could come up with a “critical incident plan if something goes on at any club”. Jones, of Devonshire Colts, replied: “Part of bringing the clubs together is to develop different plans.
“Some clubs are doing things better than others, but we’re sharing information, which is the purpose of us coming together. The thought now is to come together more often to discuss the issues. We would be open to coming up with a national crisis plan.”
Henry, who is employed in the Department of Youth and Sport, stated: “We have national sports governing bodies and there are levels of structure and framework already in place from the Bermuda Football Association and the Bermuda Cricket Board.
“At Devonshire Rec we have put the preservation of life of a person first, over the bar sales. Our bar is not open every day and when there is a youth game at our grounds, we are not permitted to have our bars open.”
Wade insisted it would be difficult for Southampton Rangers to shut their bar, as there is debt that must be paid by the club. “Two weeks into my presidency, we did have an incident at our club and it was a reality check for most of my executives,” Wade said.
“Some will say “shut your bar down” but we can’t. My club had $360,000 in debt that was left to us and if we don’t pay that debt off, our doors get closed. We have to balance between keeping the bar open, finding what is safe for our patrons and paying off the debt, which I struggle with every single week. We have knocked over $100,000 off the debt since September.”
Rick Richardson, a former coach of Warwick and Southampton Rangers, made an emotional plea to the club presidents to address the problems.
“First of all, you guys in leadership roles today are brave,” said Richardson, a former veteran television journalist. “But leaders have got to be willing to go all the way.
“We, the black clubs, have got to be more analytical. It’s the black clubs in decline, it’s our communities and our young men in decline, so we now need to be more analytical. What new ideas have come forward in recent times? What do you have that has really excited the community?
“When I started in the clubs, it was Warwick Workmen’s Club and we, the young guys, knew what the club stood for. We understood it was a business also and if we did something to destroy the business, we were out.
“Our clubs have been in decline for many, many years. What is our core business, who are we serving? At one point the clubs knew the community and the community knew the club.
“Leadership was easier back in the day; there were few options for young people. Have you looked at the studies on antisocial behaviour and violence? If so, what consensus have you reached?
“If you have reached a consensus, then set about your strategic plan. The black clubs must become relevant again.”