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Traditional clubs are victims of themselves

Bermuda's traditional sporting or workmen's clubs are victims of themselves, as many have failed to adjust and adapt their business and social models to progressive times to include effective security, economic diversity and rehabilitative measures among their framework, according to the Government's gang reduction co-ordinator.

Pastor Leroy Bean, during an exclusive interview, highlighted how many of the community clubs are figuratively being cannibalised, as in many instances it is the very men that have come through their youth sporting and activity programmes that are involved in the street violence, drug dealing and so-called “gang” activity on their doorsteps.

The apparent lack of foresight and aversion to advancement have preceded the present plight, where many still have a significant reliance on alcohol sales to facilitate community programmes and initiatives. This attracts the very elements that discourage new membership and potential partners and aids the creation of negative environments with which many of today's families are reluctant to associate and involve their children.

“I believe that the working clubs create social enemies between themselves and these young guys when they allow them to come in and hang about their premises unfettered and without the security or control methods required in today's dynamic,” explained Bean, once among those street urchins himself in much younger days.

“These allowances have allowed some of the smarter ones — and many of these guys are very intelligent and masters of strong-arm strategy — to establish these grounds as power bases that they literally control.

“The clubs need not just security where people feel safe coming out and sending their children, but they have to seize this power and control back and institute sustainable protocols and practices to maintain it and discourage the antisocial behaviour.”

Indeed, such sentiments were echoed by new police commissioner Stephen Corbishley in a recent opinion. The commissioner was speaking after four men were arrested at Bailey's Bay Cricket Club in the wake of a bottle-throwing mêlée in which attending police were attacked as if they were a rival gang.

“I fully recognise the needs of licensees to attract patrons to their premises, not least because an empty bar can soon lead to financial collapse. However, this cannot be at the expense of public safety and the key issue of ‘social responsibility',” Corbishley wrote, despite having been in Bermuda a scant period, but having experienced much of the same during his tenure in the English police force.

“Communities need their bars and clubs, as they are a focal point for engagement, the chance to relax away from work, to watch sporting events and to spend time with family and friends. However, I am aware many families are reluctant to visit certain establishments because of the types of patrons that attend and the behaviour it seems they are allowed to get away with through excessive drinking and, in some cases, the open use of drugs.”

Meanwhile, Bean further played up the penchant of clubs to hand down lengthy suspensions to unruly members and patrons, effectively washing their hands of them, saying that banning people was ineffective at best, with many often ignoring the suspensions and finding other avenues on to properties. But moreover he believes these suspensions offer little recourse in terms of rehabilitation of the offender, who quite often is a member of the community served.

“These long five-year and lifetime — 99-year — bans that they hand out are useless if there is no attempt at the rehabilitative process before allowing them back into the system and being able to direct their youth, members and patrons to the social and rehabilitative services they likely need,” said Bean, who is a certified drug and alcohol counsellor by trade, and who, before the One Bermuda Alliance's 2012 election win, operated a rescue and rehabilitation programme on White's Island that offered at-risk youth and gang members new ways to live in a safe place, along with activities and counselling.

“If the clubs continue with the primitive practices and measures, they will never get to the rehabilitative or redemptive stage because the two don't mix. We have to have more restorative practices included among the clubs' umbrella and until we implement these measures, we will continue to have the results that we're having with these outbursts of violence.

“Our whole apparatus has eroded and we have to fix it if we're serious about retaking these communities, and be able to fearlessly allow our youngsters to enjoy the positive communal effect.”

In concluding, he mentioned how sport yet plays a crucial role among the fabric of the community and in the positive release of energy in the proper direction, with sporting activities being one of the methods he has used to assimilate rival gang members that attended the White's Island programme, particularly football.

“I would deliberately put certain rivals on the same team and it's amazing to see how sport can actually help members get beyond petty differences and collaborate on the field as team-mates rather than enemies.”

Patrick Bean is a former sports reporter at The Royal Gazette

Gang reduction co-ordinator: Leroy Bean (File photograph by Blaire Simmons)

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Published September 21, 2018 at 9:00 am (Updated September 21, 2018 at 2:56 pm)

Traditional clubs are victims of themselves

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