Barbados’ football is heading in the right direction, says president of the Barbados Football Association, Randy Harris. And he expects the strides made in 2015 to be improved upon over the next 12 months.
In a wide-ranging interview with Barbados TODAY the BFA boss said not only had there been an improvement in the quality of the play on the field, but spectators had been returning to watch the games in increased numbers.
“This augurs well for the sport’s overall development and also benefits the individual clubs and the BFA,” he said, while pointing to the promotions of the UWI and Rendezvous to the Premier League as indicative of improvements being made.
Harris stressed that not only were improvements being discerned in local top-flight football, but interest as well as improvement was also on the rise in the lower divisions. He noted that advances had been made in women’s football but added initiatives were in the pipeline to move the women’s game even further forward in 2016.
“While there is a primary school tournament for boys to play football, there is none for girls and next year we have a plan to introduce football at the primary school level for girls. We really want to get that moving because it will be a feeder system to help develop women’s football at the junior and senior levels,” Harris noted.
He revealed that the BFA would also be pressing forward in 2016 with beach football and futsal tournaments. Harris said this would be restricted to domestic competitions as they were relatively new concepts and the BFA wanted to develop the two to a specific standard before inviting external participation.
He indicated that FIFA was making $2.2 million dollars available to the BFA to facilitate work at its Wildey, St Michael headquarters. Harris explained those funds would be going towards such areas as the construction of bleachers and lighting. However, he said the BFA would still need about another $600,000 to complete the facility and the association would be attempting to access additional funding.
“We will seek the assistance of Government. But of course, assistance from the Government does not only means helping us with money but could also include waivers on tax and duties on equipment and the like for the BFA,’” he said.
Looking at the BFA’s finances, Harris stated when he took over the management of Barbados’ football in 2012 he found the association “$600,000 in the red” and that had now been reduced to less than $200,000. He noted that even in the face of that situation the BFA had still been able to bring in key people such as a financial director and marketing director to ensure greater operational efficiencies.
Harris said the BFA had also been able to facilitate a number of training initiatives for staff, coaches and referees, among others. He explained the BFA had been working closely with the National Sports Council’s coaches and a number of them had received D-licence accreditation and were working now towards C-licence accreditation.
Harris expressed satisfaction with the development of young footballers within the clubs’ structure. He said players were getting exposure at the Under-15, Under-17 and Under-20 levels through a variety of tournaments and added that the managers of local clubs routinely included a number of youngsters in their line-ups.
Turning his attention to the scandal engulfing football’s governing body, FIFA, Harris said though the sordid situation was regrettable, he did not see happenings at that level affecting the development of football in the island in terms of accessing funding and technical assistance.
“Truth be told, what is happening within FIFA right now is to do with individuals and not the organization. The organization is bigger than individuals. There are full-time employees of FIFA who are working on the development of football and that work has not been adversely affected. The hierarchy might be falling apart but the various programmes for football development implemented by FIFA are here to stay and new people will be elected to run the organisation,” he said.
Harris, who has been involved in football administration for decades, however expressed his dismay that to date the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) had no president. Former president Jefffrey Webb was arrested in May on allegations of corruption for which he has already pleaded guilty. His replacement Honduran Alfredo Hawit was also arrested on allegations of corruption earlier this month.
Harris explained that without a president in place decisions would be made for the CONCACAF region without input from its membership. He said a special committee was presently overseeing CONCACAF football.
Quizzed as to whether he would be interested in a senior administrative position within CONCACAF, Harris said he would not consider it at this juncture. He said that as a football administrator one always aimed for high office but he believed Barbados’ football was more important at this stage of his tenure. He noted there was still a lot of work to be done on the domestic stage and he could not achieve his goals while seeking to take responsibility for all of CONCACAF.