Guyana, the six-time NACRA men’s Sevens champions were booted out of this year’s championships slated for the Cayman Islands next month without playing a game following late registration by five hours.
This was confirmed by the Guyana Rugby Football Union (GRFU) during yesterday’s press briefing at the Guyana Olympic Association (GOA) building.
“Guyana will not be allowed to participate in the upcoming North America & Caribbean Rugby Association Championships on the grounds that we missed the deadline for registration, albeit by a few hours” said president of the union, Peter Green to media operatives.
Green went on to state that: “The union is shocked at the severity of the punishment over a month in advance of the tournament since the GRFU gave assurances to NACRA on several occasions of its firm intention to participate in the tournament, the last communication being less than 24 hours before the ban was imposed.”
The deadline for registration was set for 12 noon on October 8. On October 7, Green e-mailed the tournament Coordinator to the effect that “Finalization of the bookings is being done by our treasurer as I write. but cannot guarantee that this can be concluded by 5pm. The following day an e-mail was received from the tournament organizer, timed at 12.11pm instructing Green that ”Since NACRA has received no confirmation or documentation, your team(s) will not be participating in the NACRA 2013 Sevens. I strongly advise you now to contact any airline, hotel you may have been dealing with, to cancel all bookings.”
This year’s NACRA Sevens championships will kick off on November 9.
So why did the GRFU fail to meet the deadline?
According to Director of Sevens rugby, Mike McCormack “The answer lies in the change of rules within NACRA”.
“Traditionally, participating unions informed NACRA of the flights they were taking and the costs, NACRA then remitted 75% of the fares in the form of the subsidy provided by the IRB to assist poorer Unions.
This year the tournament organizer went to great pains to make clear that flights had to be bought and proof of payments submitted prior to subsidies being paid – the reason offered, being that some unions had taken funds in the past and subsequently not turned up at the tournament”.
McCormack maintained that “The GRFU did not object to the rule. What NACRA overlooked is the burden this placed on poorer Unions to first raise the funds, before booking tickets, or alternatively to seek loans, which defeats the purpose of the subsidy. In the case of the GRFU, a key sponsor was late by a few days in making a promised donation available, with the knock-on effect that we were also late in buying the tickets.”
Without competing next month, the national ruggers will not only miss a chance to regain their title, their absence also closes off entry to the Commonwealth Games, the Central American Games and more importantly a major blow to Guyana’s hopes for Olympic qualification.
Green stated the ban also ignores the larger contribution of the GRFU to NACRA, which includes hosting the Central American and Caribbean Games in 2009 when no other territory in the Caribbean was prepared to do so and putting the Caribbean on the world rugby map in Hong Kong and Las Vegas.
Similarly mystifying is the Tournament administrator seemingly waiting anxiously for the deadline to arrive in order to immediately fire off an e-mail eleven minutes afterwards, ordering the GRFU to take no more actions, thereby reducing the number of competing teams to three pools of 12.
When quizzed about the team’s spirit Green revealed that the ruggers who have been hard at work preparing for the championships are understandably disappointed but measures will be put in place to “re-coup from this blow.”
Said Green “The GRFU will work assiduously to assist the men’s team to re-coup from this blow by seeking participation in one of the prestigious Sevens, either at Punta Del Este in Uruguay at year end, or the Las Vegas Invitational in early February.”
“A good showing in either tournament will go some way to re-coup our position and allow the GRFU to apply for a wild card entry to the CACSO Games. The women’s team will compete in the Caribs Sevens tournament in early December in Tobago. The GRFU will also take the necessary steps to engage Caribbean partners in structured discussions to redress mutual concerns over the direction.”