While the start of season two of the Guyana Football Federation (GFF) Elite League will come as welcome news to some, for many, there is uncertainty in the value of the tournament.
Small crowds, poor officiating and an overall low standard of play have been the adjectives used by several to describe the attempt at a professional setup.
Basically what the league has highlighted are its shortcomings and what is needed to manage the sport at its `perceived’ highest level.
The expected September 18th start is just around the corner and although one must admit the lack of competitive football locally is missed, the issue of restarting such an expensive tournament without rectifying some of the pertinent issues, seem bothersome to many, especially the main stakeholders.
For one, it is being mooted that Linden club Topp XX and East Coast of Demerara team Victoria Kings, will join the tournament for the first round which ends February 5th 2017. The second round is expected to start on March 10th.
One must ask what is the rationale behind this move especially since the GFF is yet to state whether the league was financially viable in its inaugural season.
Basically why add to the burden financially when a viable and sustainable model is yet to be achieved?
Queries concerning the financial records of the league are often a closely guarded secret and the GFF needs to hold a press conference to quell doubts over the viability of the league.
Did the league finish in the ‘red’ or ‘black’? Also, why start a new season despite failing to honour financial obligations.
Presently, the GFF owes eight match-day stipends (amounting to $27,000 each), to the players who are uncertain when they will be compensated.
Would the players respond by refusing to start the league if these payments are not made and would the GFF sanction clubs and players if they do opt for this approach?
Similarly, were their other reasons outside of football for the inclusion of the two clubs given the fact that teams competing in the Elite League possess the always important voting rights?
Was this fact considered by the incumbent as a way of looking to the future ala elections as there will be 10 Elite League clubs?
No one is discrediting the history of the two teams but do they have the pedigree required to compete in a league that is already showing the signs of being a two horse race (Slingerz FC and Alpha United) and where the bottom teams are basically yet to trouble teams in the upper echelon on a consistent basis.
Similarly, were the other teams consulted on such a decision because of the increase in games and the likelihood of more injuries being incurred during the already grueling season?
If, yes what was their position on this subject matter?
In a new development, the second Elite League tournament will also see the dreaded relegation and promotion mechanism being introduced.
Surprisingly, the GFF had said that the aforementioned regulation would not be utilized until after the second season.
According to information, the team finishing in the cellar (10th) will automatically be relegated and the victor of the Association Level Championships (ALC) will be promoted. On the other hand, the 9th placed team will have a playoff with the runner-up of the (ALC) to determine promotion/relegation.
For teams already in the event and the ones now scheduled to participate, would this be seen as fair given that they were assured that this process would not occur until the third season? Why the sudden change of heart by the powers that be?
Alternatively, who are the management staff that will be running the league? The Kashif and Shanghai Organization won the right to manage the first season and according to sources close to the GFF, their contract is up. That agreement was worth several millions.
Can the GFF say whether that contract will be renewed?
If not, has a tender process started to select the new management team? If so, when was it published in the respective newspapers? Similarly, if such a process has not started, when will it occur given that the event is only days away?
Stabroek Sport was also told that teams will be required to pay a fee of $500,000 towards their participation in the event.
The sum of $330,000 will go towards the actual registration while $170,000 is labelled as an Insurance Fee.
This fee must be paid no later than September 12th at 16:00hrs and follows a similar amount shelled out by the clubs in the first season. If not paid, teams will not be allowed to participate in the championships.
Given the current landscape of the sport, how can clubs be asked to generate this amount of capital as a registration fee and still be expected to pay players and a technical staff.
How can clubs go before corporate Guyana with such a request and have avenues to justify the investment they would have received. Simply put, very few clubs can afford either and especially both.
Likewise, teams must also possess active youth and female arms before the registration deadline as well as have all players medically insured and have a registered D’ License Coach.
Interesting enough, the prize monies for the league event have been raised with the first prize attracting a package of $6,000,000 followed by $3,000,000, $2,000,000 and $1,000,000 for the correspondingly finishers.
Also, there will be a separate elimination tournament which carry packages of $1,500,000, $700,000, $500,000 and $350,000 for the top four teams. For some this might seem as way of giving back to the players.
However, the GFF has yet to state how league event section will be paid out and how can increasing the monies be sustainable when they are struggles to merely pay the players their match stipends?
The issue of having a professional league or a hybrid of one should take on the focus of sustainability. There is no point in trying to create an event that simply does not seem to be viable. A workable model needs to be forged before the glitz and glamour is applied.