Aborted season ‛a tough pill’ to swallow for promotion favourites
Promotion favourites Hamilton Parish and Young Men’s Social Club are hardest hit by the decision to scrap the rest of the season because of the global pandemic.
Despite Ernest Peets, the Minister of Youth, Culture and Sport, expressing the Government’s support for the return of football, the member clubs voted 11-10 with one abstention to end the season.
After Monday night’s special Congress meeting, the Bermuda Football Association issued a statement yesterday confirming that the season, which has not seen any play since December 5, will end.
Mark Wade, the president, reminded delegates that the BFA executive council spent several months in discussion with the Government through the departments of health, youth, sport and recreation, and national security.
Wade also pointed out that the BFA was “fully prepared to proceed with the resumption of football after being granted permission to enter Stage 4 of the Return to Play guidelines and granted a large group exemption by the Ministry of National Security.”
Last night at his regular Covid press conference, David Burt, the Premier, expressed his disappointment that the clubs took the stance to end the season, saying that it was his and the Government’s wish to see football resume.
Hamilton Parish and Social Club hold a six-point lead over lead at the top of the First Division standings and were the favourites to go up to the Premier Division next season. Now those plans will have to wait another year, as this is the second time a season did not reach its conclusion because of Covid-19.
Last season saw the final round of games, plus the FA Cup final, called off with the BFA making the decision to relegate only bottom team Boulevard. Somerset Eagles, who still had a chance to survive, were spared the drop and instead the top division had 11 teams this season, with three set to go down.
Now Eagles, who were bottom when the season stopped in early December, will get another reprieve. X-Roads and St George’s Colts were the other two teams in the relegation places with less than half of the 20-game league schedule completed.
The First Division was reaching its halfway stage on the weekend of December 6 when the season was halted. Word quickly spread on social media after Monday night’s virtual affiliates meeting.
“I just got an e-mail last night to say that the league is scrapped,” Philip Burgess, the sports chairman at Hamilton Parish, told The Royal Gazette yesterday.
“I’m not real happy about that, I don’t know how other clubs feel. My club worked hard and now we can’t get promoted next season.
“We can’t do much about Covid. Those are the rules and we have to stand by them, it’s just a hard break for clubs that are running for promotion.”
Parish were unbeaten with seven wins in their eight games and with a game in hand over Social Club, who spent a season in the Premier Division in 2017-18.
“We’ll have to give the players some incentive and hope they stay,” said Burgess, who revealed plans for a preseason tour to Florida, Covid-permitting.
“We have things in line for a preseason training camp in the US,” he said. “We have taken our youth players overseas and that’s how we kept our programme strong, so I’m trying to implement that into our senior programme.”
Social Club, who had completed their first-half fixtures when the season stopped, were making a strong push for promotion along with Parish. .
Vance Campbell, the Social Club president, was in on the meeting and said the club is disappointed with the decision not to restart the season.
“Promotion was never guaranteed but we were in a good position,” he said. “We are extremely disappointed with last night’s decision. It was a close vote, far from unanimous.
“At Social Club we do have our players’ safety and wellbeing at heart, but we did start the season in similar circumstances that we have now and did not have any [Covid] cases attributed to any football matches.
“We were hopeful that we could restart the season under the guidelines provided by the Ministry of Health along with National Security. With no fans allowed at this stage, and players required to be tested prior to commencement of football and then every 28 days, I thought that the regime in place now is actually more robust than we had in September.”
Campbell added: “We have a young team this year and they have been training three days a week ever since football was stopped in December. For this to be decided at this point, just when we had clearance to begin, is a hard pill for the players. They are the ones more affected by this.
“It’s nothing to do with promotion, really. We now have the challenge of keeping these young men together.”
Andrew Warren, a central defender for the team, is hopeful Social Club can carry on next season where they left off and make another promotion push.
“We put in a lot of work and we were coming for Parish,” Warren said.
“I was upset when I heard that last night. I think we would have won the league.
“Like I was telling the guys in the group chat, we’ve got to stick to the same plan and carry the momentum from this season into next season. And don’t take our eyes off the ball!”
Robin Hood were just starting to open a gap at the top of the Premier Division when the games stopped. They were unbeaten and held a five-point lead over Devonshire Cougars and PHC and with a game in hand in their search for a second league title.
Hood, who withheld comment but are said to be disappointed with the vote, won the league in 2016-17 ahead of PHC before finishing runners-up behind the Zebras the next two seasons.