‛No play’ football clubs urged to reconsider decision
The sports minister has added his voice to an impassioned appeal by the leader of the country for football clubs to reconsider their decision to cancel the rest of the domestic season.
David Burt, the Premier, devoted a significant portion of his remarks at the fortnightly government Covid-19 update on Tuesday to the developments in football where an 11-10 vote with one abstention determined the fate of the second half of the season in the island’s second national sport.
“I am very disappointed for those young people who have been training, undergoing the necessary testing and anyone involved in preparing for the restart of the season,” the Premier said in his national address. “However, the Government respects the decision of our local football clubs and we will not question it.
“The permission to resume football has been given by the Government, and if there is an opportunity for the clubs to reconsider, then I hope they will do so, so that our young people can return to what they love — competitive sport.”
Ernest Peets, the Minister of Youth, Culture and Sport, was on the same page with the Premier when he chimed in yesterday.
“It was always our hope and goal to see our athletes return to competition in a safe manner,” he told The Royal Gazette. “Our athletes and the development of sport remain a top priority.
“We understand the concerns clubs have regarding resuming football competition in our current Covid environment. Our focus will now shift to successfully starting football in the [autumn].”
The decision to end domestic football came just a week before Bermuda begin their World Cup qualifying campaign against Canada and Aruba in Florida. It was hoped that football on the island would resume ahead of those matches to give locally based players some competitive play beforehand.
However, at the Bermuda Football Association’s special Congress meeting on Monday, the clubs decided to end a season that otherwise would have extended into May in order to complete a season originally set to end on April 20.
In the time that football has been idle, there have been ten rounds of Premier Division league matches that have not been played, as well as three rounds of the Friendship Trophy and First Division Shield, and four rounds of the FA Cup.
“It is the Government’s understanding that this decision was made democratically with the individual clubs voting and voicing their reasons as to why,” Burt said of the vote.
“The Government gave permission for football to commence and was hopeful that, through the staged Return to Play initiative managed by the Ministry of Youth, Culture and Sport in partnership with the Bermuda Football Association, Bermuda could enjoy a return to local sport as safely as possible.”
It is unknown what effect, if any, the news that Bermuda players tested positive after returning from the training camp had on the affiliates.
Bermuda play Canada at the Exploria Stadium in Orlando on March 25 and five days later face Aruba at the IMG Academy Complex in Bradenton.
The second match was originally scheduled as a home fixture at the National Sports Centre, but was shifted by the BFA in the wake of the revelations of players testing positive either at LF Wade International Airport on March 8 or before boarding the American Airlines flight out of Miami.
The 28-member party from the weeklong camp in Bradenton is adhering to Covid quarantine guidelines, according to a BFA statement this week, and ostensibly can be allconsidered for selection by coach Kyle Lightbourne.
The sports minister added: “I wish success for our national team as they engage in their World Cup qualification matches in Florida starting versus Canada.”
There has been no competitive football locally since December 5 and the decision not to resume the season means there will be no relegation or promotion between the Premier Division and First Division.
Burt, a keen football fan, has made no secret of his devotion to Dudley Eve Trophy champions Devonshire Cougars, who were second to Robin Hood in the league when play was discontinued.
“Some have questioned why football will not return, but international events are currently moving ahead,” he said. “I want to be clear on this — the Government gave permission for football to restart and agreed with the BFA a strategy for how they can do so safely.
“Sadly, the local clubs have made the decision not to continue the season. The Government did not make this decision for them.
“Last year permission was given for many sporting events. The same permissions were given to both cricket and the rugby [World Tens Series] last year. Both of these sports made the decision to commence under the guidelines provided, while the Eastern County Cricket Association [and the Cup Match clubs] decided they did not wish to hold their competition under the rules that were provided.
“The Government provides the guidelines and organisations decide whether they wish to go ahead or not.”