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No definitive timeline on when new season will commence

Waiting game: Mark Wade, president of the BFA is in consultation with the government as to when the new football may be able to kick off

Completing the league programme will be the priority of the Bermuda Football Association’s competitions committee once the delayed 2021-22 season gets under way.

The BFA shared the news with 23 member clubs at their annual congress meeting via Zoom on Thursday evening. Obviously the season delay received much of the attention, with clubs anxious to know when the season is likely to start.

First up is getting teams back in training,“ Mark Wade, president of the BFA, told the clubs present. “Training is permitted with physical and social distancing up to a maximum of 20 persons.

“We did have a meeting with the Minister of Youth, Culture and Sport [Ernest Peets] and some of his technical officers with a view of trying to get some timelines. Unfortunately, the Government is unable to provide us with definitive timelines, but what we did do was discuss some ideas on how we could proceed with the 2021-22 season.

“We advised them we would need, just to play games, even without fans, a minimum number of 60 persons instead of what is traditionally 50. That would include teams, team staff, match officials and security, the bare minimum for a senior match. Obviously for junior matches that number decreases.

“That seemed to be received positively and we will have a follow up meeting to try to narrow down a date. What we were able to discuss was the data and try to look at, historically, how long outbreaks last.

“The two previous outbreaks lasted two months each, but obviously they were not as severe as the outbreaks we are currently experiencing. We are hoping the numbers will plateau in short order and then slowly decrease.“

The BFA also spoke with the government officials about the difficulty with SafeKey and being able to get test results in a timely fashion.

“We discussed implementing antigen rapid testing in conjunction with PCR testing,” Wade added.

“Antigen testing will be just before match time so there will be some comfort in knowing that everyone who takes to the pitch is negative. We will have to talk about what age groups we use that with.”

With teams not training at present, it doesn’t seem likely that the season will start before November which would leave just over five months to complete the league programme of 20 rounds of matches in the Premier Division.

“When we do get an indication of when we are able to start the season the focus will be on the league competition,” Shannon Burgess, the competitions Committee chairman, said.

“So in all likelihood, all matches that are played between now and January 1 will be league matches, and look, if possible, to create windows in the second part of the season to fit in the Friendship, Shield and FA Cup competitions.”

International home matches could also be scheduled during the season.

“We also discussed international football as our senior women are due to play Cayman Islands and Dominican Republic in Bermuda,” Wade said.

“With the current outbreak we wanted to get an idea from the Government what is the appetite for hosting those matches. Otherwise we will play those matches overseas, and we have already started the investigation into what is the best venue for our team.”

The BFA also disclosed to the member clubs that funds to the tune of $835,000, allocated from the Fifa grant and approved by Fifa in June this year, is available to help with the upgrading of lights at PHC Field and Somerset Cricket Club, and for lights to be installed at North Village’s home field at Bernard Park for night matches. At present the only ground hosting night matches is Goose Gosling Field.

“We are now in the agreement stage with the contractors, which is a separate thing that Fifa has asked from us,” Troy Lewis, the infrastructure committee chairman, said. “Right now PHC is the club that has their agreements with the contractors and North Village are about to have theirs sent out.

“This is definitely something that is unprecedented in relation to Fifa allowing this level of funding to go to a club. I really want to highlight the committee for all the work they’ve done, and all the hoops, holes and crevices that we’ve had to climb through to get us to this point.”

Lewis added: “We’ve also helped Somerset Cricket Club to repair their lights and so, hopefully, when the season does start, we will have two additional fields with lights so that we can try to complete our season.”

Asked about a time frame, Lewis responded: “A lot of the contingency is based on equipment getting to Bermuda.

“The North Village project has an issue with shipping and we probably won’t start that project until the end of the season because of all the expensive construction and trenching and all the unsafe things that may have to happen at the site. North Village probably won’t come on line until the following season.

“At PHC, we’re hoping to have it completed by the middle to end of November, which depends on the equipment getting here on time.”

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Published October 02, 2021 at 7:58 am (Updated October 02, 2021 at 7:56 am)

No definitive timeline on when new season will commence

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