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Semi-pro rumblings; some ideas at the time

SportsSemi-pro rumblings; some ideas at the time

BELIZE CITY, Tues. Apr. 28, 2020– Below is a verbatim copy of a script of ideas formulated inside the Milpros camp, that were instrumental in our agitation and lobbying efforts with other teams towards formation of the first semi-pro football league in Belize. The Milpros vs San Pedro match-up referred to below was their first game played in the 1990-91 Belize City 1st Division competition on Sunday, November 11, 1990, marking Milpros’ return to football after a one-year hiatus. At the time of its writing, “semipro” was still just a dream.

Circa November, 1990:
Just some ideas
The idea of a semi-pro football league has been going around for a long time with football players and club officials. The main reason for this is that there is a lot of discontentment with the way the sport is administrated by their executives, elected every two years by the 1st and 2nd division clubs in each region. These executives are then in control of the running of the associations’ competitions and financial affairs.

Where the running of the competitions are concerned, there is not that much that clubs are dissatisfied with, in regards to the association executives. Except that occasionally they neglect their duties to appoint the various bodies required for the running of the sport: disciplinary board, protest board, appeals board, etc. which would make the sport run more smoothly and cause less problems for the executives.

However, the main gripe of 1st division clubs is with the financial administration of the sport at the district level, and this carries over into the national competition when clubs represent their various districts. (2nd division clubs have little to gripe about, where finance is concerned, because they do not attract paying fans. As a matter of fact, the 1st division competition has traditionally been the money earner for the association, which finances the 2nd division competition. Therefore the 2nd division clubs have little grounds for discontent, except where mismanagement of their competitions is concerned.)

1st Division clubs, though, have a lot to be dissatisfied about. First of all, in the very election of the association executive which runs the association for 2 years, 2nd division clubs have a big say, in that they can sway an election so that the majority of 1st division clubs might not get the representatives they desire; yet they are the ones who earn the money for the association. If the 2nd division clubs vote as a bloc, they only need a small minority of 1st division clubs to dictate the outcome of the election for the association executive. This is unacceptable to 1st division clubs, who rightly demand more say in the running of their association. They feel hampered and restricted by the constitution which gives inordinate amount of electoral power to 2nd division clubs, in comparison to 1st division clubs. 1st division clubs, at least the more organized and outstanding ones, have more or less come to the conclusion that it is time to form themselves into a separate league, whereby they can have more control over their destiny, especially where the election of their league executive is concerned.

From the financial standpoint, 1st division clubs feel the most restriction in the present system. A great deal of time, energy and dedication and sacrifice go into the preparation for games at the top levels of the 1st division competition, resulting in the drawing power which puts fans in the stands and money in the association’s coffers. To start with, while the 1st division clubs do their best to prepare for competition, the association executives have done very little to promote and market the games, resulting in poor fan turnout, even when very important and competitive games are being played. Associations hardly advertise and generally are seen to not be maximizing the potential for financial gains for the association and thus for 1st division clubs. They are viewed generally by 1st division clubs as simply coming to games on weekends to collect the gate fees and then go into a sort of limbo until the next weekend; while 1st division clubs remain hard at work preparing all week long, and then come the weekend go out and do their best in performance.

In a situation like this, it is understandable the feeling of frustration expressed by 1st division clubs with the present constitutional framework, where the bulk of the work is done by 1st division clubs, but the least financial returns are seen by the clubs: (a) poor marketing and promoting of games resulting in far below potential earnings at games, and (b) unfair sharing of game profits, where the association retains most of the profits, and clubs the least.

This is the most sore point leading to clubs’ demands for a new league, a semi-pro league. In the present situation, two 1st division games are played each weekend in Belize City. Actually, some of the 1st division clubs are usually very weak, poorly organized and not very competitive, leading to reduced fan turnout for those games. Luckily, the other good clubs have more drawing power so some fans still turn out, even when one of the games is considered below par. When all the game expenses have been deducted from the gate receipts (ticket men, gatemen, referees for 1st and 2nd division games, Sports Council, advertisement, etc.) then 50% of the profits are taken by the Association; and the next 50% is shared among the four (4) 1st division clubs who see action on that Sunday. This situation is seen as ridiculous and totally unacceptable.

As the situation now stands, there are some clubs in 1st division which do not have the organization, performance or fan appeal to draw paying fans into the stadium. They reduce the potential for the top 1st division clubs’ game earnings by (a) reducing fan turnout for perceived mismatches and (b) they get same shares of game profits as the real top clubs. A glaring example of this is the much talked about 1st division match-up between San Pedro and Milpros. This is the game everyone wanted to see, partly because San Pedro had totally dominated their weak 1st division opponents the previous week and appeared to be a real legitimate 1st division champion contender; and secondly because Milpros has a great reputation and was coming off a 1-year layoff and much publicity for their return. The first game between Santino’s and BDF was of little concern to most fans. When San Pedro and Milpros drew in a very exciting and crowd pleasing performance, they each took home less money than the winner of the preliminary match, Santino’s. Milpros and San Pedro drew the crowds to the MCC and more than pleased them with their performance, and Santino’s took home the lion’s share of the gate, next to the Association of course. Milpros and San Pedro will each receive $95.50 as their gate share; Santino’s will receive $114.60 and BDF will receive $75.40. The Association will receive $382.00 from the weekend games for its account.

That is how football has been run for the past eight years or so, and some top 1st division clubs feel that their further development and progress is hampered by this scenario. The whole idea behind the formation of a semi-pro league is to put the financial running of the games into the hands of the people who put the fans in the stands, the clubs. This is how the sport is run internationally, and if football is to go forward this is the step that has to be made. 1991 is seen as the year for this idea to become reality. Already we have waited too long.

The benefits of taking the step to semi-pro will be many…

(Amandala Sports Ed.: As recounted in our last issue, the Belize Semiprofessional Football League was launched in March, 1991, and crowned its first champion, La Victoria, on December 15; sub-champion was Cemcol Milpros.)

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