Trojans keeping mum on likely reprieve
Somerset Trojans look likely to stay in the Premier Division next season after BAA’s shock withdrawal from senior football because of a player shortage.
Twice in the past 26 years, teams have withdrawn from the league while in the top division — Hotels International in 1993 and Vasco da Gama in 2000 — in the wake of an exodus of players during the transfer windows.
Vasco managed to win the Triple Crown for the first time in 1997-98 and were league champions again in 1998-99, before dropping out the next season.
In each instance, the second relegated team was given a reprieve, as St David’s stayed in the top flight in 1993 after finishing just a point behind Hotels in the standings.
Southampton Rangers got a similar reprieve seven years later when Vasco failed to meet their obligations in the Premier Division, which was being reduced to eight teams for the season after. Rangers finished third from bottom and were due to be relegated along with Boulevard and bottom team St David’s.
Last season, Vasco returned to the BFA league with a team comprising mostly players from the Portuguese community, finishing second from bottom in the First Division. They were in last place when they achieved their biggest feat of the season, handing promoted side Southampton Rangers their first league loss since March 2017.
Somerset suffered another relegation despite reaching the Dudley Eve Trophy final last November. They were relegated along with Paget Lions, who were promoted with BAA the year before. No doubt Somerset are watching the developments very closely, although president Vashun Blanchette declined to comment on the matter when contacted yesterday. The club recently reappointed as head coach Dennis Brown, who said he was prepared to spend at least one season in the second tier while focusing on young players.
David Sabir, general secretary of the Bermuda Football Association, did not return a call yesterday.
Sabir was also in the same position for the two previous incidents, with the BFA executive going back and forth in ‘93 on whether a tenth team should be added to the First Division.
In mid-August that year, Sabir confirmed there would be nine teams in the top division, then two weeks later the BFA admitted it had “erred” in the decision to stick with nine teams. The following month, as the start of the season drew near, the BFA confirmed there would be a nine-team division, only to change their position again ten days later at a special council meeting when affiliates voted to have the BFA adhere to the legal advice given to the association on the matter.
“There is going to be ten teams in the First Division and I don’t care who that tenth team will be,” said Stuart Crockwell, then secretary of St David’s, who had a petition signed by other affiliates. “As to who the tenth team will be, we will leave that decision up to the executives and accept whatever decision is made.”
Charlie Marshall, the president of the BFA at the time, admitted that the rules governing general competition call for a tenth team, although his executives then went and voted against both that and the legal advice that was given. “We could not come to a consensus, sought legal advice and then went against that advice by a majority,” Marshall disclosed.
Last season, BAA finished sixth in their first season back in the top flight to secure a spot in the Dudley Eve Trophy. That place will most likely be given to Boulevard, who finished seventh.
Just a week before BAA’s withdrawal, the club announced ambitious plans for their football programme with coach Andrew Bascome’s football management company to help structure the club from grass roots through to their senior players.
Bascome was to remain in charge of the senior team, with Dashun Cooper, a goalkeeper at X-Roads last season, coming on board as technical director of the youth programme, where he will be joined by Uefa B-licensed coaches Karl Roberts and Aaron Lugo.
“Bermuda Athletic Association are delighted to welcome Andrew Bascome and his football management company into the BAA family as partner to provide BAA with a highly focused football programme that caters to every player and every age group, from grass roots to senior players, allowing each player an age-appropriate development path to maximise their individual potential,” Mike McGrath, the BAA president, said in a press release on July 11.
“Through this partnership, we now possess the coaches, facilities, structures, administrative and financial capabilities and international relationships to allow a player to fulfil his or her dreams and desires.”
Exactly a week later, McGrath revealed to The Royal Gazette that BAA would not be entering a team after their ranks were depleted by a mass exodus of players during the transfer window.
“We haven’t entered a team this season into the BFA league,” Mike McGrath, the BAA president, said.
“If we had enough players willing to play, of sufficient standing, we probably would’ve entered a team, but it wasn’t part of the option this year.”
It is understood as many as 23 players left the club during the transfer period.
“It’s around that figure,” McGrath admitted. “We released a lot of players.”
Some players are understood to have transferred to North Village, including top forward Keishen Bean, who is returning to Bernard Park after one season at BAA.
Kenny Thompson, who was technical director at BAA since 2010, vacated that post in May to return to North Village in a similar capacity, including coach of the senior team.
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