The National Sports Council responded to criticisms from this and other corners with a press release yesterday, January 8, explaining that the closure of the MCC is according to a plan previously discussed with the FFB General Secretary and the Premier League President.
According to the release, “On September 18, 2013, the Ag. Director, Mr. Patrick Henry, sent an official correspondence to Mr. Maito Perdomo, President of the Premier League of Belize, outlining the discussion and agreement made at the July 26, 2013, meeting,” “to discuss upgrade and major works to the MCC Grounds.” In response to reports of their directive last week that the MCC would be closed this past Monday, the release conceded that “the MCC Grounds will remain open until both on-going competitions are completed;” and ended with, “The facility will be closed at the conclusion of all on-going competitions.”
There are two important points to consider in light of the Sports Council release. First, football never really ends for any length of time in Belize City. When one competition ends, another soon begins. And second, no mention was made of any other suitable venue which would be made available during the time the MCC is closed; neither was any idea given of what the “upgrade and major works” at the MCC entailed.
The approach of the Sports Council follows a pattern that needs to change. It is a pattern of disrespect for the public, who are the real owners of these public assets.
There seems to always be a “master plan” and “master-slave” approach at work, where the destruction/improvements of our major public infrastructure are concerned. And there is a long list of disappointments. Everything new looks good to some folks for a while, but that does not mean that much better could not have been done with a little more sincere “consultation” and respect for the views of citizens. And this is not only a “red” matter; it happens with both the “blue” and the “red.” We need a new approach to “governance” in this country, and sports people need to demand better “consultation” and involvement in decision making, where plans for the future of our sporting facilities are concerned. There are EIA public consultations required by law for certain major projects; why not a similar access for the football public to these secret plans for our football home?
The General Secretary of the FFB and the President of the Premier League of Belize are two powerful football officials; but they do not have all the answers to the questions that may be put forward by an empowered football public. FIFA is not obligated to inform us, through the FFB, of the details of projects at their private facility; but the MCC, the Marion Jones Sporting Complex, the Berger field, the Yabra field, these are public assets; and the public should be entitled to a look at the plans and an opportunity to express their opinions on any “major works” on these fields where our tax dollars will be spent. We don’t like surprises; too often, they are disappointments. Let us all see the plans, and let those who want to voice their approval or disapproval, or make suggestions, do so.
Many Belize City residents were hugely disappointed with the Central Market – Commercial Center transformation; the lost Pound Yard property fiasco; the $13 million fire station; the Belize City Center debacle; the so-called “Save the Barracks” campaign; and not everyone is gung-ho with the “pedestrianized” downtown Belize City for the sake of a much enhanced Belize Bank walkway, or the new versions of Battlefield and Memorial Parks.
Consultation in Belize, when it is allowed, is often a big joke on us citizens. Consultation here, when afforded, usually means, “We will hear what you have to say; and then we will do what we want to do, regardless.” But in the case of the MCC, not even an opportunity to comment on the plans are given to the public, because we have not seen the plans. Apparently, the FFB General Secretary and the Premier League President have seen it; but who knows what elected officials will do after they are elected? The MCC is for all of us.
There must be a new way forward. This disrespect and arrogance must end. Why not get on the TV shows and explain to the people what you propose to do with our football stadium, so we can all join together in this effort? Treat us with respect, and let us all work together in 2014.
(Ed. Note: Come to think of it, some Facebook friends are wondering and speculating about the fate of the massive Civic Center property, once the building has been removed from this prime location. Are the “land hawks” busy?)