I attended the GFA/Banks Beer football finals on New Year’s Day and the event turned out to be a most memorable activity, especially in terms of the number of patrons, who literally completely filled the Bourda sward after the completion of the match, and which must have numbered among the highest congregations ever for a sporting event.
As a football neutral who simply loves this game, I sympathize with the flagbearers of such competitions, K&S, who must have suffered immensely with the introduction of the GFA alternative tournament, which ran on exactly the same days as their tournament.
I honestly feel that biggest losers in having two identical tournaments run simultaneously are the football patrons, since many, like myself, would probably have wished to attend both finals.
The K&S tournament had the bigger marquee clubs participating in their tournament; they were obviously much better organised and had the use of the main venues in the country. Yet, at the end of the day, the Banks Beer/GFA tournament attracted the larger crowds. This must indicate that there are larger issues than simply football hampering the K&S tournament and the organisers must come up with a way to resolve these issues if they ever are to return to their glory days.
Both K&S and the Banks/GFA tournaments have much to offer to the country’s football fraternity and the onus is on the GFF to come up with an amicable solution whereby both tournaments can be run in their calendar of activities without unnecessarily negatively affecting each other.
While the Banks/GFA tournament was undeniably the more successful competition, it had quite a few shortcomings which it must overcome if it is to be successful in the long run.
Some of its preliminary fixtures were too one-sided with some of the match winners racking up double digit goals against hapless opponents. Such obviously unbalanced sides demean the value of the competition. They should not compromise quality for quantity. There was also the case where some of the bigger clubs from within their sub-association preferred to play in the K&S tournament. There will eventually come a time when, if these teams advance to the final of the K&S, that it will draw the bigger of the G/town crowds. The organisers should not wait until such a scenario arises.
There is much that needs to be done to improve the conditions for patrons. A most glaring issue was the closure of many streets in proximity to the venue, yet no parking was made available to the patrons. Many were forced to leave their vehicles some distance from the ground with little or no security. If this tournament is to appeal to the so called ‘middle class’ patrons, then such issues as parking need to be given higher priority.
There was also the case where the safety of players was highly compromised as numerous squibs were thrown from the crowd onto the field near to players, especially the goalkeepers. Such actions must have affected the players. What would the organisers have done if some of the players had walked off the field citing safety concerns?
There was also the case where gates were opened for patrons to get on to the playing field before the finals had concluded. Large crowds congregated around the players’ seating area and this again was another security concern. The organisers must be aware that the safety of players is sacrosant with FIFA.
The organisers must be commended for the actions towards two of the stalwarts of G/town and national football, Leslie Holligan and Shawn Bishop, who passed away. Their contribution towards the families of these two players was a magnanimous gesture.
The K&S organisers need to have a thorough soul searching into their organisation to determine why, despite having the better football teams, venues, and organisational capability, they were almost completely shunned by the fans. This must indicate that there are bigger issues at play than simply football, though there were numerous grouses by clubs that they are frequently overlooked for this tournament.
They have played a very large part in bringing football tournaments in Guyana to a higher standard and, probably, along the way, their monopoly over private competitions made them develop a certain amount of arrogance towards the very people – the football clubs and fans – which made them successful. They have to do much to regain the trust of the clubs and the fans.
They could start by creating a more transparent system whereby clubs can become eligible to participate. Once all clubs know the rules to enable their participation in the tournament then there will be no grouses about favouritism or deliberate exclusion from the tournament.
The junior K&S tournament is a novel idea and highly welcome. However, running it simultaneously with the senior tournament demeaned its obvious value to football and it should be given a time, probably during the summer, when it can be given the coverage it deserves.
It is shocking to realise how little control GFF has over competition football and the schedule of football events in the country. There is no way that two high profile competitions should be run simultaneously and on identical days. If the GFF is toothless to resolve issues then the executives should make way for others who could at least attempt to resolve the ongoing issues so that football in the country can return to normalcy.