Sports — 17 January 2014
PLB Belikin Cup playoffs kick off this weekend

Behind the scenes Police/Bandits grumbling continues

There has been a lot of behind the scenes grumbling in the Premier League of Belize during the current Belikin Cup 2013-2014 Opening Season competition.

In a previous competition just over a year ago, the Police United team was the beneficiary of a very controversial league decision regarding the fielding of a Placencia Assassins player who was supposed to have served a suspension, according to the tournament rules regarding red and yellow cards. The thing is, the suspension was supposed to have been served in a scheduled game against FC Belize; but the then short-staffed Assassins decided on still fielding the player, and still lost the game, 1-0, on Sunday, March 24, 2013. In their subsequent mid-week Thursday night game, on March 28, against Police, the Police management insisted that the said Placencia player should then serve the suspension; Placencia was adamant that the suspension had only applied to the previous game, and persisted in fielding the player. They promptly defeated Police, 3-0, in that game, which was also at the MCC, then Police’s home field. Police lodged a protest, and the League decided to award the 3 points to Police, which resulted in Police taking Placencia’s spot in the playoffs and going on to the championship. The disgruntled Placencia Assassins did not participate in the subsequent PLB Opening Season 2013-2014.

In this current PLB competition, there is a partly similar situation; and again the Police team, desperately struggling to make the playoffs, was hoping to be the indirect beneficiary in a situation where 3 points lost on the field in a game might instead be awarded to the loser. On this occasion, it was Belmopan Bandits that lost a game, 3-2, to FC Belize, who needed the 3 points to secure a playoff spot over Police United. For their benefit, Police wanted FC Belize to relinquish the 3 points to Bandits. Bandits were secure in the playoffs, but Police was hoping for a turnaround in the points allotment, so that they could surpass FC Belize and Paradise/Freedom Fighters in the standings, and thus gain a spot in the playoffs. But this time the League decided against awarding those 3 points; and Police subsequently failed to make the playoffs.

A couple callers to the Press Cadogan Wednesday night sports show on Krem FM last night were adamant in their support of Bandits being awarded the 3 points, and thus allow the Police team to receive another gift, this time to the detriment of FC Belize. But the situation is slightly different this time around; and there is a “fair play” dimension that cannot be overlooked.

FC Belize owner/manager, lawyer Lionel Welch left the country suddenly in midweek, before the Week 8 Saturday night encounter with Belmopan Bandits at the Isidoro Beaton Stadium on November 16, to seek urgent medical attention in the US. The long time football player/executive/owner/manager, who was reportedly in excruciating pain and possibly facing a terminal illness, did not “cover all bases” before flying out, and those left in charge of fielding the team for their Saturday night match at the Isidoro Beaton Stadium had overlooked some yellow card fines that were due to be paid to the League. All relevant suspensions had already been served. At the game, this was brought to the attention of interim coach Fred Garcia, who appealed to the League’s General Secretary who was at the game, promising to make the payment the following Monday. The Secretary reportedly conferred with the League’s President, and then gave the go-ahead to the presiding Match Commissioner, who then allowed FC Belize to field the relevant player(s). Reportedly, perhaps unaware of the “football family” life crisis facing the FC Belize team, the Bandits management lodged an official protest before playing the game. FC Belize won the game on the field, 3-2; and the Bandits subsequently forwarded their official protest to the League Secretariat.

Early reports on Lionel Welch’s situation were very, very troubling; but recently, his condition is reportedly much more hopeful. Nevertheless, it is a question of survival, and the football family, relatives and friends have been quietly hoping and praying for Lionel. The League has so far made no official statement; but it is under these grave circumstances that the Belmopan Bandits management has persisted in pursuing their case for the 3 points. Their playoff situation would only differ with them being the #2 instead of the present #3 seed; the real difference would have been the chance for Police to contest the 4th playoff spot, since they are presently tied with Paradise/Freedom Fighters. (See final regular season Standings.) Having lost a game on the field, the Bandits might want to reconsider the signals being sent as a consequence of their protest under these circumstances.

There are other reasons why the League, when a Protest Board returned a rare “split decision” in favor of awarding the 3 points to the Bandits, decided to employ its Executive “veto” to overrule because of the special circumstances.

Aside from the fact that it was no less than the League’s General Secretary, with the President’s approval, and the Match Commissioner who had given the FC Belize team the conditional go-ahead in using the players, and it would be grossly embarrassing for a ruling to come against that “permission,” however misguided it might have been, there is another argument why the protest should not even have been considered by the League. Competition rules, understood by all players and fans of the game, are quite clear where yellow cards and red cards are concerned. A red card means an automatic suspension from the subsequent game (or more than 1 game, depending on Disciplinary Committee decision); two yellow cards in a game results in an automatic “red”; and an accumulation of 3 yellow cards over different games in the competition result in a suspension from the subsequent game. All those cards also come along with the relevant fines, which should be paid to the League before the player is allowed to return to action.

We are talking about three related things: cards – yellow and red; suspensions; and fines. Where cards and suspensions are concerned, those are very much the concerns of competing clubs, for all are seeking fair competition; and if a player has earned a suspension, for accumulated yellow cards or a red card, it is fair, whatever the circumstances, to require that your opponent serve his suspension. Where the payment of individual card fines are concerned, that is a matter to be dealt with between individual clubs and the League. There is no unfair competition implied if, due to extenuating and special circumstances, the League agrees to allow a particular club, in this case FC Belize, a couple days grace in making their payment. How could this be considered unfair to the Bandits? Would the Bandits, or any other club, for that matter, wish to be in a similar situation as FC Belize was?

“All is fair in love and war.” Yes, but sometimes we need to avoid missing the big picture, whatever the blunders of those in charge of administrating the sport. Nobody is more aggrieved than P.G., after a referee error cost them a spot in the playoff; but they are not about trying to break up an exciting season. Football is nothing without life; and what is life without love? As “Mongolians” (the late Steve “Puppet” Bent) used to say, what we need in our football is “More love!”

Get over it, Bandits; and better luck next time, Police.

It’s playoff time. Let’s play ball!

Semifinal playoff schedule:

Saturday, January 18
7:30 p.m. – Belmopan Bandits FC vs Belize Defence Force FC – Isidoro Beaton Stadium

Sunday, January 19
4:00 p.m. – FC Belize vs Verdes FC – MCC Grounds

Saturday, January 25
7:30 p.m. – Belize Defence Force FC vs Belmopan Bandits FC – Carl Ramos Stadium
7:30 p.m. – Verdes FC vs FC Belize – Marshalleck Stadium

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