On Target
October 7, 2011
Bring the game to the people

The fall off in crowds at local matches has been a bug bear for some time, and answers must be found to redress this.

The current system in which the National Club Championships is the top flight of local Football has its problems and does not reflect a true national competition.{{more}} Some of the issues are self inflicted, and others triggered by the fact that we have left the sport to evolve into a less than ideal situation, instead of tweaking it with realism.

As it stands, because of scheduling problems, the Victoria Park, which is the premier venue, because of its revenue earning capacity, is not always available for exclusive use during the club championships.

Additionally, the participating clubs are disconnected from the communities, resulting in little or no support from fans. In short, the clubs are fundamentally orphans.

So, the intention to depend on Victoria Park to pay the bills comes to nought as the players perform in front of mostly empty stands.

It must be remembered that when club and community football were strong, St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ Football was strong.

Then, there are conflicts with league football, because the national league competes for resources fields, sponsors, etc. and fans.

Over time, this untenable situation has left Football at the national level to be no longer the game of the people, as there is no connectivity.

Whilst the popularity has dwindled at the wider local sphere, the emergence of the various Village Football League strengthens this column’s call for a return to community football.

One cannot ask for more support for the Sion Hill, Campden Park, Layou, Barrouallie, and Stubbs competitions.

However, with one problem solved, that of bigger crowds, as there are bragging rights at stake, the sport suffers, as quality of play falls, as these competitions are seen as mainly fun activities, which unite the communities.

But, with interest rekindled in these areas, one cannot drop the ball and lose the momentum that is going for the sport in the abovementioned places.

The onus is on the new custodians of the national organisation, the SVGFF, to realise a format which will ensure that the sport goes back into the hands of the people.

It does not mean that overnight there will be a rise in the interest, standard of play or our rankings.

Therefore, in getting to that marriage of the existing structure, teams and clubs should be encouraged to pool players from a locale where homogeneity is present, thus promoting that following of supporters.

The national club championships, though, will still be in the hand of the national executive. However, there will be evidence of some involvement by the host leagues, whereby matches played on the venues are overseen by the league officials.

In this way, home and away matches are possible as friendly rivalries will naturally fall into place as no one will want to be beaten twice, especially on home soil.

Here, both the national league and the various leagues co-exist, engage the same match officials, so that uniformity in officiating is maintained.

Also, with the fields designated as host venues, the host association and by extension the host teams/clubs are certain to attract large crowds, which in turn guarantee some revenue, as selected fields which are fenced, namely Stubbs, Sion Hill, the Chilli Playing Field in Georgetown and the Clive Tannis Playing Field in Bequia, the Victoria Park with its lighting and other amenities, will only be awarded the matches among the proven best teams/clubs which bring with them the droves of spectators.

Likewise, the play offs, including the quarter finals, the semi finals and the finals of the championships.

In essence, Victoria Park will become the local Wembley, as it is there players will have to prove themselves.

And, the television agreements forged with local television station SVGTV to broadcast live matches in the national club championships will be restricted to this phase.

Promotion and demotion occur at the league level between the Premier Division, that is teams that compete in the national competition and First Division teams that compete only in the local/league competitions.

Yes, we may not be able to reach the glory days, but we can at least reclaim some of the fervour which we once had for Football.