The suspension of Guyana Football Federation (GFF) President Colin Klass by FIFA, the world body governing football should pave the way for reforms within the GFF and football officials must come together to foster the development of the sport locally.
Klass was suspended from all football related activities by FIFA for 26 months and fined $5000 (Swiss) francs after being found to have breached various articles of Code of Ethics following an investigation related to the special meeting of the Caribbean Football Union held in Trinidad and Tobago earlier this year.
During his term as president of the GFF over the past 22 years, Klass has crafted a name for himself internationally rising to a position of Vice President of the CFU. He also served on FIFA’s Futsal and Beach Football committees.
But his rise on the international scene has been a stark contrast to the underdevelopment of football locally and he has been accused of holding on to power over the years by marginalizing administrators whom he viewed as threats to his authority.
The Georgetown Football Association (GFA), the largest affiliate of the GFF has over the years felt Klass’ wrath and even now is shut out from football activities under the aegis of the parent body.
This situation has eroded relationship between the two organizations with the current impasse engaging the courts.
The GFF is now under the control of long-serving Vice President Franklin Wilson who was expected to demit office this year in a run up to the GFF Congress which was aborted after the GFA moved to the courts to stop the meeting which was in progress at the Ocean View International Hotel.
It is unclear whether Wilson will have a change of heart and seek to remain on the executive of the GFF even as the local body faces administrative concerns.
In addition to Wilson, General SecretaryGeneral Secretary Noel Adonis who attended the controversial meeting in Trinidad where a cash-for-vote bribery scandal was unearthed is still under FIFA’s microscope along with 14 other Caribbean football officials while the GFA is challenging the position of assistant general secretary held by former General Secretary George Rutherford.
Being a close ally of former FIFA Vice President Trinidadian Austin `Jack’ Warner who was also implicated in the bribery scandal but subsequently resigned, many felt that Klass did very little to foster Guyana’s football development.
The poor handling of the FIFA GOAL project; the lack of funding to prepare national teams and other development work despite a yearly FIFA grant of $USD250,000 and initial funding for the GOAL project exposes the magnitude of maladministration by the GFF over the years.
One local football official opined that Guyana always received the crumbs from the Trinidadians table and the development locally was a far cry from what is expected with other Caribbean territories.
But, as officials grapple for power, there has been marginal successes on the field with the Golden Jaguars winning two of the home matches in the 2014 World Cup preliminary competition and a recent encouraging 2-1 win over a visiting Indian National side.
The Junior Lady Jags have made a notable advancement to the second round of the Under-17 CFU World Cup qualifiers.
Two critical issues must be addressed urgently the first being a speedy resolution to the current GFF/GFA impasse. And rehired Technical Director Jamal Shabbazz has threatened to resign should there be no settlement soon.
The GFF and the GFA must open dialogue now and there are capable mediators locally including President of the Guyana Olympic Association (GOA) K.A. Juman-Yassin and Chairman of the National Sports Commission Conrad Plummer,who could assist the two bodies in reaching a settlement.
Once that issue is settled then the GFF could hold its Congress to name officials to run the affairs of the federation, incidentally Klass was seeking another four-year term but will now be ruled out.
Guyana’s football is at the cross roads and now more than ever a concerted effort is needed to move the sport forward.