Hogges still have a future, insists Scope
Paul Scope insists it’s not the end of the road for Bermuda Hogges despite the team pulling out of the Premier Development League (PDL) at the eleventh hour due to financial difficulties.
The surprise withdrawal, less than a week before the start of the new season, brings the shutters down on Hogges’ six years as a United Soccer League (USL) franchise, leaving the side’s future shrouded in uncertainty.
Scope, the Hogges owner, admits the USL were unhappy about the timing of the decision but hopes their relationship hasn’t been sufficiently damaged to prevent Hogges re-entering the PDL, possibly as soon as next summer.
“(The USL) obviously weren’t happy about the late withdrawal, but I was just trying to do everything possible until the very end to raise enough money to have a reasonable chance of completing the season,” Scope said.
“It’s obviously a regret it went so close (to the start of the season) but we had been talking to the league for a week or so before about the possibility (of pulling out).
“Obviously what the league didn’t want is for the team to pull out half-way through the season that’s a lot worse for them. I just felt it was very important to keep as good relations as possible with the league.”
Few would argue that Hogges haven’t helped raise the standard of the domestic game by providing a platform for the top players to experience a higher level of competition.
And Scope is cautiously optimistic Hogges could be granted permission to rejoin the league on the condition they have secured the required funds prior to a ball being kicked.
“I’m not devastated about it because it I don’t think it’s the end of the Hogges,” said Scope. “I’m proud of what we have been able to accomplish, but I still feel there’s a lot more to come from the Hogges as an organisation I feel we can still help Bermuda football.
“I’m hoping the relationships that have been built over the years, and how we handled the exit, leaves a foundation for future conversations (between Hogges and the USL).
“I still have a hope but there’s no guarantees because the league might not allow us back in . . . if they even considered it, they would have conditions on it.
“From my point of view, I’d be happy to be involved subject to the Hogges being pre-funded. If we start working towards it now then there’s a possibility we could be back on the field next year.”
Having ploughed a substantial amount of cash into Hogges over the last six years, Scope felt he could no longer carry on ‘picking up the tab’ to keep the side afloat.
However, he stressed there had been no fallout with the Bermuda Football Association, who provided significant financial support in 2010 but were unable to maintain that level of funding after having their Government grant substantially reduced.
“It’s a shame because the BFA certainly recognise that getting 14 games with many of the national team players playing for the Hogges is a great benefit, so this isn’t a case of people falling out with each other,” said Scope, who formed Hogges with the help of former professional players Shaun Goater and Kyle Lightbourne in 2006.
“The first season in the PDL the BFA were able to support us significantly with funds, but when their Government grant reduced significantly I had to pick up the slack.
“But I understand why the BFA have to careful with the way they allocate their budget as they have to maintain the Academy and be ready for international competitions.”
Hogges had hoped to mount a play-off push this season under the stewardship of national team coach Andrew Bascome, who planned to use the games to prepare Bermuda for this summer’s NatWest Island Games.
And Scope believes the current squad would have been the best prepared of any previous Hogges side.
“I’m disappointed for the coaches and the players. Ironically this would have been the best prepared team as they’ve been training regularly for the last few weeks,” Scope said.
“I was actually really looking forward to the season as there would have been an emphasis on competing well, and I had designed the fixture list to dovetail into the NatWest Island Games.”
Scope added: “I have no real regrets; it’s cost me quite a lot of money, but the game has given me a lot of pleasure over the years and it’s nice to give something back.
“Things could have gone better. We could have won a few more games, we could have been more financially successful, but we kept it going for six years thanks to help of the BFA, the sponsors and Government. There were a lot of volunteers too it’s really been a team effort.”