The GFF leadership has failed

Dear Editor,

Putting the proverbial cart before the horse seems to be a regular pastime of the Guyana Football Federation (GFF) led by the brilliant Wayne Forde.

The learned men (and women in some cases) will come out of the woodwork to defend the GFF’s position. Where is the sport going? The GFF continues to pretend as though development is happening, but irrefutable evidence suggests a patent picture of a lack thereof.  The sport is going nowhere as the GFF continues to do press releases and photo opportunities to mask their failures. Scandal after scandal, alongside convenient decisions, best illustrates the leadership of the federation.

The staging of elections without timely public notice and in some cases none at all, smacks of lack of transparency and accountability and appears more to do with convenience to maintain office.

One section of the media recently reported on an interview with the President of the Federation about his views on several topical issues affecting the sport, and his response was a clear manifestation of the style of governance of the current administration. Until and unless the GFF is willing to engage all stakeholders, only then will there be a true understanding of the issues affecting the sport’s development and image.

Meeting with the National Sports Commission (NSC) to implement a framework to govern the use of taxpayers-funded facilities will not solve the myriad problems plaguing the sport, but the flexing of the Federation or perhaps the President’s muscles seems to have become an obsession within the corridors at the Federation.

The shooting incident that occurred recently is definitely not good for the sport, but to just isolate it from many other troubling issues affecting the game is either being narrow-minded or simply indicates a lack of understanding of the real concerns. The notification to FIFA and CONCACAF one would have to conclude is obligatory, since any parent would have genuine concerns about the provision of a safe environment for fans, but they too must be guided by the reality of our situation and not measure us by the index of many of the developed members that comprise their respective organizations.

Guyana is nowhere near the preferred standard of sporting facilities, so the context of our situation in terms of safety and security has got to be taken into account in any deliberation, while our style of governance which very often exudes conceit and undemocratic conduct is creating further strife within the sport. How else could you explain the decision taken to sanction two officials for their participation in a street football tournament without any cause, highlighting the high-handed nature of the sport’s ‘leaders’. To date, official correspondence outlining the reasons for their suspension is yet to be delivered to the two gentlemen. Dictatorship is alive and kicking in Guyana!

Instead of the focus being one of retribution, the GFF’s concentration should be on the many important factors that bring success and respect to the sport. The fixed eyes should be on its members, some of whom have not conducted any activity of note, while getting the clubs in order and having strong membership retention are some of the areas that need immediate attention.

The plan of the GFF encircles two entities, Government and FIFA. Many of the press statements, media briefings and photo opportunities of this august institution channel a similar approach. Government spending in conjunction with the benevolence of FIFA seems to be the saving grace on which the GFF places all its cards.

The institution seems unable to formulate a plan and structure for the development of the sport. They seem incapable of creating and developing a marketable brand for the development and growth of the traditional game. Evidence of the aforesaid is the lack of league play in their respective member associations. It is obvious that the GFF does not have a clear vision for the sport’s development. The Elite League is a failure on a competitive and commercial front. The defenders will argue that standings highlight a competitive and balanced competition. However, any spectator who has witnessed the four-hour torture that entails viewing the games would state otherwise. The quality on show translates to glorified mediocrity. No wonder it has failed to attract sponsors and a viewing audience, which now basically comprises players and team officials.

But that is brilliant and accepted in Guyana. To play the league irrespective of its lack of quality and direction is the object in the opinion of the powers that be. The quality will eventually (hopefully) get better they often quip. It is amazing that mediocrity has become so viable and expensive!

Ironically, GDF learned the hard way, suffering the embarrassment of not featuring in the CONCACAF Club Shield due to ‘financial constraints’. This episode once against highlights the incompetence of the current administration. As the regulatory body of association football, the Federation should have ensured that all systems were in place for the army unit to represent the nation at the prestigious championship, not wait until the eleventh hour to thwart the eventual embarrassing outcome.

Interestingly, for all the league’s ‘importance’, 80 per cent of the players who will be selected for national honours in competitive games will be foreign born and based players. The charade must continue as many locals will be selected for the provisional team under the guise of exposure, with only a select few making the cut for the vacation and trips that have always been international sojourns.

An examination of the women’s game is simply damning. Quite frankly, this aspect of the sport without fear of contradiction is imaginary. Women’s football is played on a consistent basis, just not locally, despite all the ‘political campaigns’ of the GFF to state otherwise. When was the last time a league was played in Guyana?

In the beginning of the Elite League, teams were mandated to formulate a women’s arm. To this date, nothing resembling an iota of a women’s football framework has been structured by many of the competing clubs, with the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) and Fruta Conquerors the only two elite institutions that have budding arms in this department.

Women’s football will never be the focus of the GFF. They can simply enlist the services of foreign born players (individuals who can’t tell the difference between Berbice and Buxton) from Canada, USA and England to don the flag for international competitions. These are the same individuals who hardly return to the self-proclaimed motherland following the conclusion of tournaments, but are elevated over our local lasses because of the colour of their passports and the lack of opportunities provided to our girls, who have been failed by the Women’s Association and the GFF.

At the moment, the only headlines centred on our young females is the accusation of sexual harassment and misconduct by the senior officials of the executive and referees fraternity; in one instance, there was an allegation that the GFF President was aware of more than 15 months prior, but did nothing tangible about. I guess it’s just not the priority of the GFF. Remember those words, they sound very familiar. Finally a Commission of Inquiry (COI) has supposedly commenced.

The building of a national centre (and not a stadium because FIFA does not build stadia) is the focus of the current administration. The belief is that this long overdue edifice will make up for its many failures, while private promoters continue to camouflage the shortcomings of this administration. The GFA is nonexistent and best illustrates the state of affairs of local football.

The GFF had stated its intention to write the Guyana Police Force (GPF) and the custodians of facilities to thwart the approval of individuals in the absence of GFA compliance. This attempt to go outside its remit will prove unhelpful for the fostering of improved relationships among stakeholders. It could very well lead to a situation of approval only being given to certain promoters and at the same time affect the visibility of the sport, a situation that would surely be to none of the parties’ benefit.

The governing body has covertly sought to goad the GPF and the NSC into positions that could stir controversy, but the two institutions have correctly not acquiesced to the ludicrous request.

Such a demand could very well lead to a situation of promoters who may have a strong affiliation with the Federation urging the entity to deny certain promoters permission.

Such a scenario would quickly escalate into legal proceedings. May the best lawyer win!

It must be noted also that the GFF has been guilty of non-adherence to its own rules and regulations with an Elite League game serving as proof of such. The game in question was the fixture between host Den Amstel FC and Western Tigers where a visiting player was attacked by spectators with bottles and pieces of wood on the field, after an altercation with an opposing player. In the absence of security, the referees were forced to play peacemakers in the matter, before the police were summoned to escort the visiting team out of the venue.

These are some of the things that FIFA and CONCACAF must know as well and adjudicate in a fair manner.

The GFF’s determination to govern with an iron-fist and disregard for opposing views will take it down the road to disgrace.

Sepp Blatter, Jack Warner, Jeffrey Webb, and those closer to home have all travelled that path and we know the end result.

Yours faithfully,

Rawle Welch

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