Darkness fell on the Calliaqua Playing field when the lights at the facility were turned off last Sunday evening, bringing an abrupt end to a sporting activity involving football teams from surrounding communities.
And while the organiser insists that provisions were made for his activity to take place, those responsible for the facility maintain that no permission was given to host an event there.
“This is just distasteful for sports. I just wish the situation didn’t have to become the way it was. I just wish this wasn’t the result. I just wish regardless of whatever the situation would’ve been, I wish there would’ve been a more amicable solution to it…” Renson Haynes, the organiser of Sunday’s football games in Calliaqua told SEARCHLIGHT this week.
The Calliaqua Playing field is under the care of the National Sports Council (NSC) and managed by a management committee in the community.
Permission to host events is sought either through the NSC or the Committee, which is chaired by Calliaqua town clerk, Foster Hannibal.
Haynes explained that it was his initial intention to host a football event on Sunday, February 21 but after discussions with Miles Bascombe, the manager of the NSC, the decision was made to downsize and have a traditional “Sunday sweat”.
The community leader said this kind of activity is usual in communities across the country and did not include a bar set up, amplified music or have any sort of promotion.
He also said he was told by Bascombe that “If it is teams within the community, then it is not gonna be a situation where you have to go through protocols, rent the field and basically establish it sas if it was a full blown event”.
Haynes told SEARCHLIGHT he proceeded to make arrangements with Bascombe to have the field cut ahead of schedule.
According to the community leader, he received a call from the town clerk’s assistant on Sunday afternoon, informing him that the bathroom facilities were open as well as the door to the room with the light switches but if the lights were to be used, then a fee would have to be paid to Hannibal.
The Sunday sweat activity consisted of two games being played between four teams.
It was that call that supposedly led to Haynes deciding to have the matches played at a later time.
And while the first match was played without interruption, the second one was cancelled because the lights were turned off by Hannibal, who came accompanied by police, before it could be played.
Allegations have also been made that the light switch panel was broken into, in order for the lights to be turned on for the start of the second game on Sunday.
But Haynes, who is familiar with the facility, denies this, stating that the door to the light room was unlocked and that there is no lock securing the light panel.
The community leader also alleges that Hannibal’s decision to turn off the lights during the match was politically motivated.
“Who don’t live in Calliaqua, who have not had experiences with Mr Hannibal might be quick to think otherwise than what I’m saying but I know what I’m saying is totally true and other people could testify to that…because of negative experiences they have also encountered with Mr Hannibal,” Haynes said.
The community leader further questioned why the first match on Sunday, which ran for approximately 120 minutes, was not stopped if permission had not been granted.
The NSC issued a release one day after the event, stating that permission had neither been sought nor granted for the use of the Calliaqua Playing field or any of its amenities.
And when SEARCHLIGHT spoke with Bascombe, the NSC manager on Wednesday, he again stated that the Council had not received nor did it give Haynes permission for his event.
Bascombe admitted to meeting with Haynes, who at the time outlined the magnitude of the event he wanted to host.
“I told him what was required in order to have permission to go forward…he would need to write to the Sports Council and he would have to wait for permission from the Sports Council, which would be contingent on receiving approval from the health services,” the NSC manager said.
“He spoke to me about persons who use Arnos Vale and Sion Hill to play football recreationally and whether or not they needed permission. I indicated to him that those persons use the facilities in a recreational,unregulated way so they do not require permission because many of the Sports Council facilities are community facilities and persons in the communities generally are allowed to go onto the facilities and use them recreationally.”
In these circumstances, persons only use amenities available to the general public and are not allowed to mark the facility.
Use of facilities under the care of the NSC is also not exclusive, unless permission is first granted by the organisation.
Bascombe said the NSC facilitates the recreational use of facilities in their care and he liaised wit the Operations team to have the Calliaqua field cut ahead of its schedule in order to facilitate what Haynes decided would be a “regular Sunday sweat”.
“What Mr Haynes did, he downplayed the scale of the event, giving the impression that he is going to have the regular, recreational, unorganised Sunday sweat in order to get me to cooperate and facilitate the maintenance of the field and then he went ahead and had the original event as he had outlined to me originally, having four separate teams, specifying start time for one match and start time for another match, having agents mark the field without the consent of the National Sports Council and somehow getting access to the light room and turning on the lights without the consent of the National Sports Council,” he told SEARCHLIGHT.
Foster Hannibal, the Calliaqua town clerk and chair of the playing field’s management committee said that when it comes to the use of facilities, the proper procedures must be followed.
And he saw no need for the lights to be used on Sunday, as the activity was meant to start at an earlier time.
“I know at this stage, because of the COVID, footballers are eager and ready to return to playing football but what Mr Haynes tried to do is to break all the protocols…” Hannibal said.
The town clerk is also involved in sports and culture in the community and said it is not his intention to hinder the growth of sportspersons in the community.
But he believes Haynes must take accountability for what transpired on Sunday.
“If Mr Haynes had allowed his activity to take place during the time where you don’t have to use the lights, the situation today might’ve been different,” Hannibal said.
He told SEARCHLIGHT he has submitted a report of what transpired at the activity on Sunday, and the police have been engaged in relation to the light panel being allegedly broken into.