Tue, Jun

New SFA president Denis Latiff, third from left, is flanked by members of his executive—Joseph Rooplal, left, public relations officer, Aldwyn Ferguson Jr, second from left, 1st VP, Michael Maurice, third from right, the general secretary—administration, Clayton Williams, second from right, the secretary – operations) and Dwight De Leon, right, who was newly-appointed general secretary.

“By the hook or the crook, football will be played in the Southern Football Association (SFA) this season.”

This was the assurance given by Denis Latiff, the new president of the Southern Football Association (SFA), after referees demanded an increase in match fees from $450 to $650 for their service, owing to high travel and increase cost of living. They are also asking for security to be provided for each match.

The SFA boss told Guardian Media Sports yesterday that he can only pay $550, which is an increase of $100. So far, he has funded the entire League which started on June 25, inclusive of the youth and senior competitions single-handedly, and he has also provided each club in the senior division with uniforms, three match-balls, and goalkeeping gloves, and no registration fee was charged.

He said it’s not that he does not want to give the increase to the referees, but he cannot make it at this point. “That arrangement can be made for next year,” said Latiff.

Guardian Media Sports attempted to reach out to referee assessor Linda Bramble-Thompson for comment but calls to her phone went unanswered.

However, Latiff explained that his executives are scheduled to meet tonight with more than 16 clubs of the zone at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium from 6 pm to get feedback on a request by the referees for them (the clubs) to pay the balance of $100, which is when the SFA pays the $550. Latiff said he doesn’t believe the clubs should be given any financial burden, having just come out of a pandemic that grounded sports for three years.

The Tiger Tanks general manager, who is known as an action-man, has given the assurance that football will be played this season, “by the hook or the crook”.

In the youth competition in the zone, more than three rounds of matches have been played already, due to clubs bringing their own linesmen and referees. Latiff said he has been working on a contingency plan which will soon be known.

Following a three-year period of no football action due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Latiff and the SFA’s focus have been set on getting back participation in the sport. And they have also been boosted by the willingness of the clubs to provide their own officials (referees and linesmen) for matches.

Latiff said he will continue to negotiate with the referees to have the situation sorted out, saying he hopes that the referees can meet them halfway.

In the sister isle of Tobago, football has not been hampered, despite referees being paid $500.

In the Central Football Association (CFA), however, only football in the youth competitions is being played, first vice president Allan Logan said. “The CFA negotiated a price for the youth leagues before the referees agreed to ask for more money.”

Unlike in the south zone, the CFA is being asked to pay $600 per match, which is an amount that Logan said they cannot pay presently, as it was the amount they had put in their budget to their sponsor—Ascension.

“I do not have an issue with the referees asking for more money, because of the high cost of living, but they should have given us some time. For instance, had they requested that before, we could have put things in place,” Logan explained.

The CFA too, has been sheltering its clubs from the burden of forking out too much money this season. Logan said the clubs had to be given a three-month period to pay a registration fee of $2,100 to play because they could not come up with the full amount at once.

In addition to the registration fee, the clubs also had to fork out $1,000 each for club membership.

The board will meet this week to decide on contingencies to go forward. However, Logan said, he is hoping that good sense will prevail in the interest of the sport and the people involved.

SOURCE: T&T Guardian