The Belize Bank Super League Tournament championship final, scheduled for this Sunday at the MCC Grounds in Belize City, is probably the richest championship ever in semipro football in Belize, and City fans are expected to return in numbers for this special season ending treat, though no Belize City club is involved.
Traditionally, semipro clubs, in the BPFL and now the Super League, have looked forward to the playoffs as the round when the competition gets fierce and the crowds begin to come out to watch the games. If you make it to the semifinal, or, even better, the final, then each game has a handsome gate receipt for the home team, that makes the investment in the previous regular season games worth the while for club owners.
Reports are that in some of the district towns, especially Independence, the fan turnout has been good all season long; so these clubs have probably not lost money during the regular season. But in Belize City, fan turnout has been dismal all season, both for BPFL and Super League clubs. According to F.C. Belize owner/manager Lionel Welch, the last season was the worst ever financially. His club saw good fan attendance for the away games, but the turnout for his home games in Belize City was disappointing. And it has been much worse for the City’s Super League representative, Kraal Road F.C., which made the playoffs, but then faded into third place.
Nevertheless, the new Super League, only in its second year, has already outstripped the BPFL with prize money for its championship finals. Reportedly, the cash prizes provided by the sponsors of the Belize Bank Super League Tournament include a 1st prize of $25,000, 2nd prize of $10,000, and prize money of $300 each for certain individual awards – namely: Best Forward, Best Defense, Best Midfield, MVP Regular Season, MVP Playoff, Most Goals, and Best Goalkeeper.
Meanwhile, things remain unsettled in the BPFL, which is yet to hold elections for a new executive (originally scheduled for February 21). The league’s pro-tem chairman Mr. Welch confirmed today that RF & G Insurance will not be sponsoring the league this year. Elections are now expected within a couple weeks, as the BPFL is about to wrap up its negotiations with the FFB for approval of its new Statutes.
Asked about the possibility of some kind of discussion with the Super League, Welch said there are no plans for that right now, as the BPFL is intent on concluding negotiations with the FFB.
On the other hand, representatives of the Super League have indicated that, unless there is an agreement to somehow replace the present FFB President, they are not interested in coming back to the FFB. Which means that, for now, any merger between the BPFL and the Super League is unlikely.
The present situation is unfortunate, as this sports desk is among the fans who believe that the best thing for Belizean football would be if some understanding is worked out between the two semipro leagues, so that some sort of relegation system could be put in place for the new 2009-2010 season. One league – the A or 1st Division of the semipro league – would have the best 6 or 8 or 10 semipro clubs in the country; and the other league – the B or 2nd Division semipro league – would consist of the remainder, another 8 or 10 or 12 semipro clubs. This would create added interest near season’s end because of the relegation system, a cornerstone for all successful professional leagues in the region. The net result would be maintaining a group of top clubs with a high standard of football in the A league. It’s the only way forward for football in Belize. But it won’t happen if the leagues don’t work together; and they won’t come together unless things change at the top.
There’s your job cut out for you, new Mr. Minister of Sports and Mr. Executive Director of Sports. Otherwise, where serious football fans are concerned, you are quite irrelevant. What’s relevant right now, though, is who will take home the big “pot of gold” this Sunday at the Garden. Hope to see you there.