The Barbados Football Association’s (BFA) mission is to attract as many spectators to its Wildey, AstroTurf venue this new season.
But for that to happen says BFA president Randy Harris, the association first has to eliminate the perception that there is violence around football.
Speaking with the media during a press conference held this morning at the BFA’s Wildey headquarters, Harris said while he is excited about the upcoming 2020 season, he reiterated the need for public support as the local football season commences this Saturday and Sunday with three matches each day.
Harris outlined plans to make local football more attractive this year as the Barbados Defence Force Sports Programme is set to defend its league title. Similarly to how prizes were shared to spectators during the 2019 inaugural Capelli Cup tournament, Harris said similar incentives will be offered during the Premier League on selective days.
“…We have to encourage people to come here. Already I am hearing persons saying that football is a game of violence and they are referring to Barbados. I don’t see how the BFA or anybody that loves football can let that myth continue because we have had no incidences at football for quite a while.
“Just to make things clear, yes there have been shootings at games. I don’t know if you realise that was nearly 20 years ago. And the other thing is that these incidences, these were being played in communities that had no real security or safety barriers. The people who organised them at that time believed that they were providing the community with activities that were exciting, wholesome and at the same time providing an avenue to get some extra cash,” Harris explained.
“It has to stop because football has not had any incidences of violence for over 20-years. If we can forgive the English Premier League which went through a torrid time with real violence where people were destroying towns and stuff, they went to that level, and if they can get it to a control level as it is now, we in Barbados could do the same thing.”
The BFA president revealed that many positive things are happening in football and that the sport is an avenue to attract young people. He, therefore, encouraged the media to spread positive news on local football.
“… We just have to show that we are serious about developing football because we are at the same place we were 25 years ago, only doing things a little more organised. We have full-time staff, but as far as football and developing football on this island we are way back. It is time, we need everybody to support football,” Harris maintained.
“We are looking forward to working closely with you [media] to promote our team, players and to promote the people who work so hard with them. We want to give the players the sense of being loved by the people they represent and basically, that is how we want to operate going forward.”
Harris also revealed that a proposal was sent to FIFA for the approval of a grandstand at the Turf. Every four years the BFA receives BDS$8,000,000 that goes towards building facilities and therefore once approved, construction should start on the stands.
“Our vision was to get the artificial turf completed and at least have reasonably good seating for our patrons. At the time we were sitting on grass, rocks, dirt and stuff, so we were able to achieve that [turf] with the assistance of FIFA 2.0, and going forward we wanted to have a grandstand. So, we are looking at having seating in the future for approximately six to eight hundred people. So, this proposal that is in FIFA’s lap really is about getting to another part of that vision,” he said.
The two-zone format implemented two-years ago has been abolished. According to Harris, the BFA has not achieved anything from that format and neither the clubs nor the spectators were happy with it.
Therefore, all 12 teams in the league will play each other in two rounds. Harris revealed as well that instead of two, four teams will be demoted and only two will be promoted. So, in 2021 there will be only 10 teams competing in the league instead of 12.
“Truth is if we want our Premier League at the highest quality, we have to reduce the number of teams,” he said.
Russell Latapy, head coach of the senior Barbados men’s team was in attendance and shared the same sentiments as Harris about the 2020 Premier League season which promises to be exciting.
The former Trinidad and Tobago midfield maestro said the Premiership will be used to strengthen the senior men’s national team.
Latapy said he was satisfied with the talent he had seen in the Premier League competition but acknowledged there is still room for improvement. He said the focus is to get the players to understand the level at which they are playing and what is required to compete at the highest level.
“I think what we are doing here at the BFA which is educating the coaches with our licensing, I think it is a big effort on our part to raise the level of football. To answer your question there are a lot of things I am happy with but there are also a lot of things that need to be improved and I think we are working on it slowly but surely,” Latapy said.
Entrance fee for the 2020 Premier League season is BDS$10 during the week and BDS$15 on Sundays.