Sports — 17 August 2012

This morning, FFB President Ruperto Vicente dropped by the Amandala sports desk, and we welcomed the opportunity to be enlightened on the progress and plans for football under his administration, which was elected to office on March 15 of this year, replacing the administration of Dr. Bertie Chimilio, who had ruled football in Belize since 1998.

Stategic plan

FIFA has advised the FFB to hold off on finalizing any strategic plan until November of this year, when FIFA consultants will be conducting special training in Belize for the FFB, towards designing a strategic plan for the next 10 years. Nevertheless, the FFB has designed some plans in regards to the structure of football tournaments in the coming season.

Football competitions – no B League

The FFB does not envision a B League in its plans for football right now. Vicente says that, after reviewing the situation, with regard to their overall plan, a B League would not be feasible right now.

The top league, the Premier League of Belize, or Belize Premier League, as some fans prefer to call it, will start its competition next weekend or early in September.

The FFB has directed all the branch associations to start their different District Competitions by early September, in order to be completed at the end of the year, in time for the start of the Interdistrict Competition. The District Competitions in each district will be for U15, U17 and U20 categories.

The Interdistrict Competition, which starts in January, will be in 2 phases. There will be an Interdistrict Club Championship, for all the different age categories, where the champion club from each district will participate. Then there will also be the Interdistrict Selection Championship, where each district will create its District Selection from the various age categories to represent the district. The Interdistrict Committee is headed by veteran football star Anthony “Garrincha” Adderley, a former president of the BNFA, the forerunner to the FFB. The structure of the Interdistrict Competition will facilitate the selection process towards the formation of the best National Teams in the different age categories.

With such a format, it is felt that only the best clubs should remain in the PLB, which should eventually be reduced to about 8 clubs. In the present scenario, it would have been desirable to include clubs from Dangriga and Corozal, perhaps increasing the number to 14 clubs, and zoning them at 7 per zone in this initial year. Unfortunately, the latest word is that the PLB now has 12 clubs, with none coming from Corozal or Dangriga.

Vicente admitted that there is room for discussion, on possibly allowing a few over-age players who are not active members of any PLB clubs, to participate in the Interdistrict competition, similar to what is done in the Olympics.

Registration of players

All players need to be registered, for effective planning and management of football. Clubs that fail to fulfill this essential requirement of the PLB are demonstrably not equipped to participate in the league tournament. Registration of players in the PLB is $30.00 per player, which funds will be remitted to the FFB. Fees for club registrations remain with the PLB.

At the district association level, the FFB has proposed a player registration fee of $20.00 per player; but this figure is optional to the different associations, who, depending on age category and particular circumstances, may decide on a smaller figure for player registration. The registration fees received by the district association remain with the district association to assist with costs in running their various competitions.

“Win CONCACAF”, $ help for Premier League clubs

According to Vicente, FIFA had decided, since 2010, to provide financial assistance for 3 years to help the top league clubs raise their standard up to the professional level. In addition to the annual BZ $500,000.00 (US $250,000.00) that FIFA has been giving to the FFB for the last decade, since 2010 it has allocated BZ $300,000.00 (US $150,000.00) a year specifically to be disbursed to clubs in the top league, at that time the BPFL, now the PLB. 2012 would have been the last year of this program. He also revealed that this year, before the elections on March 15, the former administration had already requested, and received from FIFA, an advance of BZ $80,000.00 (US $40,000.00) out of the 2012 “Win CONCACAF” funds. The shocking revelation is that, since 2010, none of the clubs have seen any of this money from the previous administration.

So far this year, the new Ruperto Vicente led FFB has requested and received BZ $60,000.00 (US $30,000.00) of the 2012 “Win CONCACAF” allocation from FIFA, and has already begun disbursing it to the League. The plan is to disburse half now, and the other half will be given midway through the upcoming competition. Vicente reminded us, though, that the money received by PLB clubs under the “Win CONCACAF” program is specifically to be used for referee costs and transportation, and must be accounted for.

International competition obligations

Belize is mandated to participate in a number of international competitions in 2013 – the Nations Cup in January; later, the U20 and U17 competitions in both male and female; the senior Female competition; and Belize is also scheduled to be the host for a CONCACAF U16 competition in 2013.

Vicente said the additional lights, sponsored by Caribbean Tires, are already here to upgrade the FFB Stadium to meet FIFA standards. In addition, the FFB will seek assistance from FIFA under the Goal Project, to provide the required stands for television and the necessary back-up generators for the stadium, in order to fulfill requirements to participate in the next CONCACAF Champions League tournament.

National Team and Coach

The National Team Scouting Committee will be calling up players by the end of August to start the selection process. One immediate incentive for the 25 players selected to the National Team, is that FIFA provides insurance for every member of the National Team.

The National Coach must be certified as an International Coach by FIFA, and no Belizean is presently qualified. However, 8 Belizean coaches who have attended training workshops conducted by FIFA have been identified for more training to eventually achieve FIFA certification.

In the meantime, the FFB National Team Committee is reviewing applications from different individuals to fill the position of National Coach. The standard minimum fee for an International Coach is US $4,000.00 per month, plus rent and transportation. Negotiations for the post may be influenced by flexibility in this area. Also, the choice of the team’s official Trainer may need the approval of the National Coach. Vicente acknowledged that the FFB will try to ensure that some of our best experienced coaches are allowed access for consultation with the National Coach, who can benefit from their knowledge of our Belizean players.

Financial accountability

Normally, all FIFA allocated funds under its different assistance programs must be accounted for, before more funds are disbursed. That is why it is remarkable that the last administration was able to get by the way it did. In earlier communications, Mr. Vicente had revealed that the newly elected FFB Executive inherited a practically empty bank account, and little in the way of records.

In regards to the annual FIFA funds for the FFB, under its FAP (Football Assistance Program), Vicente revealed that the previous administration had already received BZ $286,000.00 (US $143,000.00) out of the BZ $500,000.00 (US $250,000.00) for this year, leaving only BZ $214,000.00 (US $107,000.00) for the rest of 2012 for the new FFB administration to work with.

We reminded Mr. Vicente that on its website, FIFA had stated clearly that it had disbursed a total of US $550,000.00 (BZ $1,100,000.00) in two separate payments of US $250,000.00 (BZ $500,000.00) and US $300,000.00 (BZ $600,000.00) to each national association as a bonus from the profits of the 2010 World Cup. Vicente said he had seen no record of the FFB receiving any such funds, so that will have to be investigated also.

We asked Mr. Vicente, what is his administration doing to account for the missing funds from the previous administration. He said that, on advice from FIFA, his administration is focusing on moving football forward, and will leave the investigation up to the committees specifically assigned to deal with that. Those committees are a Legal Committee, headed by attorney and F.C. Belize club owner Lionel Welch and an Ethics Committee, to be approved at the Extraordinary Congress of the FFB in early September.

Upcoming dates, meetings

The long awaited FFB press conference will be held on September 5, at which the FFB will present the various committees appointed according to the Statutes. The football public has been getting a bit impatient for a report from the FFB leaders following their trip in May of this year to FIFA headquarters in Budapest, Hungary, where they met with FIFA President Sepp Blatter.

Then on September 13, there will be an Extraordinary Congress of the FFB, at which the Executive will seek the Congress’ approval of its proposed Ethics Committee members. The Ethics Committee answers to the highest authority of the FFB, the Congress, and is the body authorized to investigate charges of wrongdoing or unethical behavior by any official of the FFB, including members of the Executive. As such, it is expected that the Ethics Committee will be asked to look into the recent financial irregularities of the past administration, present its report, and perhaps make recommendations for action.

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