PLB Closing Season delayed; owners “rocking the boat” on Executive
Last Tuesday, February 18, the Premier League of Belize (PLB) released the schedule for the first 2 weeks of its new Closing Season 2013-2014 tournament, with games slated to be played over the weekend on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. This was followed by another release on Wednesday, February 19, where the PLB announced the “Disciplinary Board results/sanctions” in respect to the semifinal game from the last competition on Sunday, January 26, at the Marshalleck Stadium between home team Verdes FC and visiting FC Belize. We considered the late issuing of the sanctions to be of poor timing to usher in the start of the new season. As reported in last weekend’s issue, 4 Verdes players were suspended for 6 months and 1 Verdes player for 2 years (effectively all of the upcoming season), and both Verdes FC and FC Belize had the charges for cards issued during the course of the game raised to $150.00 per card. Both clubs, but especially Verdes FC, would therefore be reeling from the effects of the sanctions, while trying to prepare for opening games. FC Belize, whose owner, Lionel Welch, passed away recently, was given a pass by not being scheduled for action in the opening weekend.
But, what was looking like a rocky start to the Closing Season turned out to be no start at all.
(The opening weekend schedule had called for defending champion Belmopan Bandits vs Police FC at Isidoro Beaton Stadium, and BDF vs San Ignacio United at the Carl Ramos Stadium on Saturday night, February 22; and Paradise/Freedom Fighters vs Verdes FC at the Toledo Union Field on Sunday, February 23. But all games are off.)
After a meeting involving 6 of the 7 PLB club owners/managers on Thursday night, February 20, which resulted in some conditions laid down to the PLB Executive, the PLB secretariat subsequently made another release on Friday, February 21, stating simply that the League was “postponing the upcoming Closing Season Tournament until further notice.”
According to the text of the draft letter we received from one of the owners, reportedly addressed to PLB President Jaime “Myito” Perdomo, the clubs passed 2 resolutions, 1 calling for the start of the “Closing Tournament be postponed for 2 weeks;” and the other giving the PLB “1 week, with the deadline being Friday, February 28, 2014 to meet the following requests: (a) Secure Sponsorship of the Closing Tournament, (b) Submit Financial Reports on PLB accounts; (c) Submit a Budget for the Closing Tournament; (d) Ensure that Verdes FC appeal is properly submitted to the FFB for hearing; (e ) Put in place disciplinary actions for referees who continue to make incompetent and illegal calls; (f) Put in place measures to ensure that ALL central referees must be Class 1 and assistants must be Class II and III. (If referees are not Class 1, Clubs have the right not to take the field with NO sanctions against them.)” The letter closes by saying they expect the matters to be addressed “by the deadline of Friday, February 28,” otherwise, “the owners will be forced to take necessary next steps.”
The Opening Season lasted just over 4 months, from September 28 of last year to February 8 of 2014. Already, the Closing Season has to be an abbreviated one, to produce a champion in time for the CONCACAF Champions League deadline of May 18. According to FFB General Secretary Michael Blease, the Closing Season must have an equal number of games (7 teams playing 12 games each) as the Opening Season in order to meet CONCACAF requirements, so there might have to be some mid-week games. The regular season points total of both seasons’ champions will be compared, and the one with most aggregate points gets to represent the Jewel in Champions League.
We spoke to PLB President Myito Perdomo this afternoon, and he said his executive is reviewing the letter with some concern in regard to possible violation of the Statutes in overturning a League announced tournament schedule opening. On sponsorship, having been dropped by Belikin, he says there is no way he can guarantee securing another sponsor by the deadline of Friday. `He said he will consult with the FFB on how to handle the letter with requests from the owners.
On a related matter, we asked Myito for his take on reports that the Ministry of Sports is asking FC Belize and the Premier League to move their practices and games to the old Hostel field on Racoon Street in order that renovations can begin at the MCC. Needless to say, some of us in the football family in Belize City consider this an insult.
Back in 1984, when the Sports Council planned a major upgrade to the MCC playing surface, the 1984-85 Belize City competition was played at the then National Stadium (now the Marion Jones Sports Complex), returning to the much improved MCC for the 1985-86 competition. The question now is, why, after being closed for so many years, hasn’t the football field at the Marion Jones been made ready to accommodate football while the proposed works are done at the MCC?
Without a doubt, the abused MCC Grounds is desperately in need of infrastructure (bleachers, lights and bathroom facilities) and field surface upgrading. But the beleaguered Hostel field is small, in far worse shape than the MCC on every count, and with limited grass cover. Is that what our Ministry of Sports thinks of our Elite football players in the top league of the country, who recently played for the national championship?
They say, “every disappointment da fi di betta.” Hopefully, the present agitation from owners will result in better management of the PLB competition, with better officiating, game promotion and fan turnout, once the new season gets under way. Our ‘ballers deserve better.