Quite apart from what Fifa president Gianni Infantino said on his visit here in August, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves has made it clear that no entity will have control of a playing field to the extent that they have preference and others have to seek permission to use them.
Prime Minister Gonsalves made his position clear at a press conference Tuesday as he responded to a question on the discussion involving his government, the St Vincent and the Grenadines Football Federation (SVGFF) and FIFA on the lighting of playing fields.
Infantino, during a press conference here in August this year at which no question was fielded, said he was “very encouraged by the vision and the plans which we will put into action because the time of words has passed and we have to move to action.”
He also stated: “And we’re moving into action very, very quickly and swiftly in terms of the refurbishment of the facilities in Brighton, in terms of the lighting of three community fields for which we are working on the fine-tuning with the government. But, we are basically in agreement from that perspective because we both, the government and FIFA and CONCACAF and the football federation here in St Vincent and the Grenadines are working for the community, for our children, for our boys, for our girls and it’s what we have to focus on and what we have to do.”
Infantino stated further then: “And that’s why we’re investing in the Brighton area, and that’s why we will invest in a new football pitch; maybe even a football stadium just next to that area. That’s why we’re investing in the community fields and the lighting of these fields. Of course, we want to have the priority in terms of the use for football because we are football and we want to develop football because everyone loves football in any case.”
Prime Minister Gonsalves on Tuesday told reporters at Cabinet Room that he was not up to date with the details of the “recent to and fro” between the football federation and his government on the issue but there is a general proposition in which it does not appear as though FIFA in the region is appreciative and the football federation will have to help them to get appreciative of it.
“Not because you light a field you must control it. Not because you invest in a physical facility that it is controlled by the football federation and everybody else who have to come and use it has to come to the federation to get permission to use it because they have first call on it permanently.
Dr Gonsalves referred to a Mr Webb with whom there were some difficulties. He said there was some discussion about investing US$400,000 in a playing field but it was on condition that he/his organization must be in charge of the field. He said he told Mr Webb that’s not going to happen.
Prime Minister Gonsalves said that prior to Marvin Fraser’s election as president, the government gave the football federation a playing field at Brighton, noting that there is a memorandum on it. He said the federation was given permission to do the building but it was not properly done, despite his advice to have a tender process for the contract to construct it.
He said the playing field was not developed and it was over-ran by grass and there was cattle dung all over.
Prime Minister Gonsalves said that while Venold Coombs was president, the federation wanted Victoria Park – the field where most major, national cultural events, such as carnival and Gospel Fest, are held. He said he asked the federation if they were serious. He said he asked if the Carnival Development Corporation (CDC) or the Gospel Fest Committee should have to ask the football federation for permission to use Victoria Park.
“I said: ‘you all must get real. I said, that kind of a model which may work in Germany, or England, or wherever they have a whole set of different fields. We’re not going to take the limited fields that you have and put one entity in charge of them.
Well, certainly I won’t do that. And this government won’t do that. So, I don’t know if that remains for them still a problem,” Dr Gonsalves said.
Dr Gonsalves said there were other discussions with other interested parties but “they came up on the same bottleneck.” He said he did not know if the situation remained a difficulty but if it was then “that’s an immovable difficulty from the standpoint of the government.”
“So, leh we (let us) make it plain. You can say what you want, that’s the position of the government,” Prime Minister Gonsalves said.
Dr Gonsalves said he will not take Park Hill Playing Field, which is in his North Central Windward constituency, and enter into an arrangement where someone is allowed control of the field because they installed a lighting system.
‘This is a mountainous country with small amount of lands – small areas to put playing fields,” he said. (CIBS)