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Sport, security and the media

Three incidents in the past 14 months have led to sport in this country being suspended, albeit very temporarily — the protracted, daytime car chase and ultimate shooting outside The Fairmont Southampton that involved cricketers on the run, the shootings at Somerset Cricket Club in the wake of an incident of gunplay after the 2014 Dudley Eve Trophy final at National Stadium and, tragically, the shooting death of Rickai Swan at Southampton Rangers Sports Club last month.

On each occasion, the pleas from those in positions of leadership were that social issues were at the heart of these acts of gratuitous violence, effectively kicking the can down the road. But football, cricket and the clubs that play host to them are part of Bermuda's social fabric. All sport is, really. So trouble in and around those areas of our society is indeed as much their problem as it is the country's on a wider scale.

The rub is that rugby union, swimming, golf, tennis and volleyball are not the most popular or the most populated sports on the Island, and are far less likely to attract an element that gives rise to antisocial behaviour — or worse.

Yes, the gangs.

As a result, a security and/or police presence at their events is deemed unnecessary unless, in the case of the World Rugby Classic, the potential size of the gathering mandates legally that they be there in some degree of force, if for no reasons other than crowd and traffic control.

It is all right for the likes of Larry Mussenden, the president of the Bermuda Football Association, to protest that there is no connection between the sport he has ruled for the past decade and gang activity, but those protests are beginning to fall on deaf ears in a community where much of the violence they see and hear of comes at or in the throes of such gatherings.

In the wake of the fatal shooting on October 23, Southampton Rangers insisted that it would beef up security for the next sporting event held at the premises. But, while there was the odd police officer here and there, not that much appeared to have changed and individuals of a shady bent casually took their places among the “paying” audience as if they were to the manner born.

A year earlier, Somerset said the same thing about ensuring that those who have committed bad deeds, or are in whatever small way connected to bad company, would not be allowed on to its grounds, let alone inducted as members of the club. But reality, culminating a fortnight ago in Dandy Town's teenage goalkeeper having objects thrown at him from much closer than a stone's throw away and the team having to “get out of Dodge” right on the final whistle — unshowered, unchanged — paints a rather different picture.

In the middle of all this are the media — those from this parish and elsewhere who have to ply their trade despite the madness going on around their ears. In general, it is eminently safe to say that the public do not care how we do our job, as long as we get it done.

It is with that uneasy backdrop as a strange bedfellow that every reporter goes about his or her day, every day, holidays included — slaves to a critically demanding public.

We accept that and, for the most part, those entering this profession are warned they may need comfortably more than one coat of thick skin if they are to endure.

But, at times, we could use some help.

Which segues to a longstanding disconnect between those who put themselves on the line each day to serve our public and the governing bodies, who to a large extent rely on our kind to get their messages out to the public.

The reality is that there is far more take than give in this supposed give-and-take relationship.

The media are part of every family in Bermuda: part of the football family, the cricket family, the Cup Match family, the sailing family, the tennis family, and even the family of government and politics. Families fight or do not speak to one another for spells; they all do.

Throughout these disagreements, though, there should be mutual respect and an appreciation for how we each go about our business. There should be no closed shops; not if you then insist on availing yourself of the public purse, as the bigger sports in this country do — or are happy to accept sizeable government donations, as St George's Cricket Club did last week. Yet we struggle consistently to operate a workable, two-way line of communication with their leadership.

No one has spit on us. Recently. And no one has swung a bat at us, either. But why should we wait for the worst-case scenario in an environment where violence now travels as seamlessly as a duck through water?

Why can't we, for once, get ahead of the curve and put in place structures whereby the media, the officials and the players can safely go about their jobs without the nagging suspicion that they are a misplaced word or two, or a snatched chain or two, from bedlam.

Now well into the 21st century, we should not be talking about the same failings to do with security, or the inability/unwillingness to make provisions for the media, which was commonplace 30 years ago — especially when we know for sure that societal decay has well and truly set in.

If the governing bodies do not believe that they and their clubs are well enough equipped to cope, it is the responsibility, after consultation, of those at government level to protect their citizens. Despite these straitened economic times, if that means finding funding so that more intense security becomes a priority, then so be it.

The problem with continuing to kick the can down the road is that, at some stage, apart from a sore big toe, you get to the end of the road — and the point of no return.

Shootings aftermath: Remembrance Day 2014 was shattered when four men were shot outside Somerset Cricket Club. Acting Chief Inspector Dave Greenidge, second left, and Chief Inspector Jerome Laws held a press conference outside the club after the incident. Also pictured are media relations officer Dwayne Caines and Sgt Russann Francis, of the Bermuda Fire and Rescue Service's media relations team (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published November 20, 2015 at 8:00 am (Updated November 20, 2015 at 12:56 am)

Sport, security and the media

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