HAMILTON, Bermuda, CMC — The Bermuda Police Service (BPS) has threatened to call a halt to football being played at Police Field if clubs using the ground continue to allow gang members to play for them, the Royal Gazette newspaper reported on Wednesday.
Promising a new “zero tolerance” approach in a letter sent to the Bermuda Football Association (BFA) and the island’s clubs after a meeting earlier this month, Acting Deputy Police Commissioner Martin Weekes said it was time for clubs and teams to stop allowing gang members to travel to away games.
The newspaper said it understood that Boulevard Community Club and Paget Football Club had already received letters from the police, informing them that several of their players are no longer welcome at Police Field.
Boulevard, who attempted to rid the club of gang members several years ago, are believed to have had four players who were deemed unacceptable while Paget had two.
“It has been the Bermuda Police Service’s position for some time that the dangers caused to the public and to the footballing community by the practice of teams fielding persons that are identified as being actively involved in gang and criminal activities outweigh any benefits that their skill on the field can bring to Bermuda football,” Weekes wrote.
“It is time for teams and clubs, particularly, to recognise the liability issues surrounding the continued practice of travelling to ‘away’ games with gang members on their teams when violence, which could otherwise have been avoided, ensues during or after games.”
Weekes said getting its own house in order was the BPS’s first priority.
“With a view to setting standards at our own club premises, the Bermuda Police Service wishes to inform you that, going forward, we will operate a ‘zero tolerance’ attitude to persons we have identified as persons involved in gang and criminal activity, utilising the Police Field,” Weekes wrote in the letter addressed to BFA general secretary David Sabir.
“Officers will be in attendance at games played at Police Field going forward and will work with club officials to identify these persons and to inform them that they are not welcome to play at the Police Field.”
Weekes told Sabir and the clubs that police would also clamp down on spectators smoking marijuana at Police Field.
In response, the BFA said in a statement: “The BFA supports any efforts to protect the game and the match-day environment. We look forward to ongoing dialogue with the Bermuda Police Service as it pertains to football.
“We acknowledge that our clubs will need assistance in dealing with the antisocial behaviour, which manifests itself throughout various parts of Bermudian society.”
The BFA has insisted in the past that football on the island does not have a gang problem.
Former BFA president Larry Mussenden reiterated this after Rickai Swan was shot dead last year in gang violence at Southampton Oval, home of Southampton Rangers Sports Club.
“We refute the suggestion that there is a significant or any gang problem in football,” Mussenden, who is now the Director of Public Prosecutions, said in an interview with the Gazette in October last year.