Throughout its 50-plus years of existence, the Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) has been no stranger to controversies. Though the league is evolving and has enjoyed substantial commercial support, player eligibility disputes have hindered the league’s development.
A select few SSFL Premier Division teams continually disregard the player eligibility legislation imposed by the league, which has damaged the league’s image.
The SSFL Disciplinary Committee tries its best to discourage schools from engaging in the illegal practice but it is a combined lack of effort from all parties involved, which ensures player eligibility remains an issue.
SSFL president William Wallace believes the league is doing its best to combat the issue but he pointed out that league administrators rely on the principals to inform them about any irregularity that is taking place so that they can act upon them.
“We are grateful to have been able to get more people on the Credentials and Disciplinary Committees to come out so far, and they have taken time off to examine the documents that come to them,” he said.
“This year protests are being brought to the attention of the league quicker and the league can only respond to them depending on how timely we get the information.”
According to Wallace, “So far this season the SSFL has had to address one protest from Naparima about a player’s eligibility.”
Asked about the Trinity College, Moka and Fyzabad issue he explained: “The SSFL received information and we acted on that information and we continue to urge the principals to bring to our attention any concerns that they have on any issue because at the end of the day this is their league.”
Wallace revealed that on following up on Fyzabad’s use of player Maurice Dick, the SSFL Credentials Committee unearthed that both Dick and team-mate Dez Jones, were registered with the wrong documentation.
The school registered both players for the SSFL with transcripts that claimed they had four passes each which is needed to qualify to be Lower Sixth Form students at the school, when in actuality Jones and Dick were enrolled with two and one CXC passes, respectively.
As a result, nine points were taken away from Fyzabad after all the matches in which the players’ participated in were forfeited.
According to a school representative who spoke to Guardian Media Sports on the condition of anonymity said, “The league is trying its best to improve the Credentials process by implementing an online Credentials registration process and creating a Player’s pass that will be scanned by match commissioners in order to verify a player’s eligibility for a match. But the online registration process is a tedious one.”
However, the source believes that SSFL dealt with protests quicker last season than it is doing this season, which is a cause for concern.
In response, Wallace said, “The SSFL can only address concerns that are brought to it, but it is for the principals to lodge complaints. The SSFL beg its members to keep it informed about any situation or development.”
Last season, two ineligible players, Abdus Ramcharan and Kori Cupid of East Mucurapo Secondary and Presentation College (San Fernando), respectively, were fielded in a combined nine Premier Division games. The SSFL failed to recognise these infringements at the early stages of the competition and only addressed it after matter after protests were lodged by St Benedict’s and Naparima Colleges. St Benedict’s protested the use of Ramcharan and Naparima, the use of Cupid.
All of the matches that the players had participated in resulted in forfeited games for their respective schools.
It led to a radical change to the league final standings. The teams that were initially facing relegation, Queen’s Royal College (QRC) and Fatima College, ascended out of the demotion zone and were replaced with East Mucurapo and San Juan North.
The San Juan team eventually won an appeal before a general council committee to keep them in the league under the belief that the SSFL Credentials and Disciplinary committee failed to spot the wrong doing and act in an appropriate time.