Officials of the St Vincent and the Grenadines Football Federation (SVGFF), must move swiftly and decisively to nip in the bud, any acts of violence during the ongoing National Club Championships.
This, after one of its match officials, a referee, was physically assaulted at the Chili Playing Field in Georgetown.
The incident involved a player from the Greiggs Football Club, who reports say repeatedly threw punches in the face of referee, Rohan Primus, thus causing him to suffer lacerations and swelling in some areas.
Kudos must go to the Secretariat that expeditiously issued a release vehemently condemning that unsavoury incident.
The release also confirmed that the incident is in the hands of the SVGFF’s Disciplinary Committee.
Hopefully, a decision is swift as a message must be sent in the strongest manner that physical abuse of any kind has absolutely no place in the sport.
Similarly, the St Vincent and the Grenadines Referees Association ( SVGRA) has issued a statement denouncing the violent act by the Greiggs player on Mr Primus.
Furthermore, the SVGRA said that they are willing to sacrifice their assured income from officiating in the matches, in preference to their safety.
But beyond what unfolded at the Chili Playing Field, the reality is that Football has been black eyed on so many occasions because of public spats, poor results from our senior men’s team as well as incidences of issues surrounding accountability and other administrative faux pas.
Therefore, the effects of what took place last Sunday can be far- reaching. It can be used as a scapegoat for some corporate entities here to withhold or deny their financial or other forms of support to teams, clubs, and community organisations.
Moreover, Sunday’s fracas, can be a catalyst for other forms of misconduct as the National Club Championships get heated, especially when it reaches the business end.
Tensions are expected to soar in the championships as teams jostle for the various titles at stake, prize monies, as well as avoid relegation.
One, though, has to put violent outbursts on the football field in this instance, into perspective.
It cannot be denied that we are living in an era where it takes little to trigger off violent reactions. Unfortunately, sports is the vent valve for some of the behind the scenes social issues that are obstructing the free flow of emotional stability.
In short, we as a people have transitioned into that short-fused mode, and intolerance is fast becoming institutionalized.
Despite some of the psycho- social ramifications, one has to be also mindful that there is a continuous erosion of morals in our country, in a mix also involving some socio- economic and socio- political factors.
Football, and sports in general, must become that route to diffuse the eruptive phase of the social volcano that we seem to be nurturing.
This is notwithstanding that violence in sports and other spheres of life can be deemed inevitable, but we cannot as a people, as sports administrators, concerned Vincentians, simply throw our hands in the air and surrender.
Again, whilst football is at the receiving end of some negative publicity emerging from last Sunday’s incident, violence in any shape or form committed in our society, should be the concern of all.
But, even as this column zooms in on Football, measures must be put in place to reduce the frequency of physical attacks on players, match officials and spectators.
To achieve this, there must be collective responsibility in not only curbing violence at sporting events, but to place a spoke in the wheel of this scourge.
One of the key components in the fight is the help of the local constabulary. Unfortunately, it is not normal course of duties for law enforcement officers to keep the peace at sporting competitions.
Often times, their services come with a cost to the organisers, who in turn avoid that line item, hoping that moral suasion will take its course at these events.
Before we get to the protective phase, there has to be preventative measures which is a whole new ball game, requiring social programmes and inter- sectoral approach.
In the interim, Football, undoubtedly the Game of the People, must not be dragged through the mud, because of some hot -headed individuals.
Likewise, our match officials have to execute their duties with impartiality, free of ill will, prejudice and with honesty.