BFA in plea for more money
The Bermuda Football Association have said that more funding is essential if they are to combat the growing influence of gang violence in football.
In a presentation to the parliamentary joint select committee on violent crime and gun violence, president Larry Mussenden called a lack of funding ‘the biggest threat to football right now'.
However, UBP MP John Barritt suggested the BFA needed to prioritise its spending, noting that according to the Association's own financial report –$1.2 million went on administrative expenses last year.
Mussenden, along with –vice president Cal Blankendal, general secretary David Sabir, and board member Shannon Burgess appeared before the committee yesterday to share their experiences of gang culture in football.
The trio laid out their plans for combatting ‘the scourge of inappropriate social behaviour', which included a database of known troublemakers, background checks for coaches, players and administrators, and a partial admission that gang members were already a large part of the game on the Island.
Specifically, Mussenden acknowledged that players from certain clubs were unable to –represent their team if it meant travelling to areas of the Island where their gang rivals –operated.
He also said some clubs did not scrutinize the players or members that joined, even though they were suspected of being involved in gang activity.
And Mussenden admitted that gangs were starting to creep into youth football to the extent that some teams were being freely associated with the dominant gang in their area.
In response, the governing body's aims for the future mainly targets club facilities, spectators, and administrators.
According to Mussenden, clubs have inadequate safety, –security, or grounds, and, as a –result weapons and drugs are –being smuggled in before and during matches.
In order to combat this, the Association wants more funding so that it can improve club facilities, introduce random drug testing as a condition of membership, as well as create a database of known offenders which it said would aid in criminal prosecutions, and be used to ban those responsible from all the grounds on the Island.
On top of that, the BFA also said that it had already installed security cameras at eight club grounds around the Island, and begun creating a network of security co-ordinators within clubs.
When questioned about what the Association was doing about punishing offenders, Mussenden said: “We have had, for a long time, a policy that if a registered footballer does something they can be banned for life.” While the governing body have shown a willingness to do this in the past, it has not always been the case in the present. A fight that erupted at a Professional Development League match involving players and spectators of Southampton Rangers and Boulevard Blazers last year was linked to gang trouble, but none of those involved got life bans.
This too is the league that executive member Shannon Burgess told the committee yesterday had been launched three weeks ago to get more young men into football.
Clubs too are reticent to punish their players, with one Premier Division club failing to act, despite having a player arrested for drugs possession last month. In this case the governing body aren't believed to have intervened either.
Despite that, the BFA are hopeful that the clubs will respond to the difficulties that lie ahead, and insist that money, or a lack thereof, is the only thing holding them back.
“Clubs aren't getting adequate support from the financial sector,” said Blankendal.
“The Island needs to change its perception of football and take it more seriously.”