By Neto Baptiste
President of the Liberta Sports Club, Kenneth “Flipper” Benjamin, has lent his voice to the ongoing debate regarding whether or not women representing national football teams should receive appearance fees.
Benjamin, also a former national and West Indies cricketer, supports the argument that the game is under-developed and that the focus should be on improvement and not compensation for players.
“Quite frankly, if the female players get paid when they represent Antigua, then I don’t have an issue with it but we have to look at priority and see what is more important because I feel like the females have been advantaged by the FA because they [the ABFA] get monies from FIFA for the female progrramme, not to pay females, but they can [pay] out of it,” he said.
“The female programme is lacking, there is no youth female programme and the female programme, apart from this year, has been found wanting and I am think that before we even start discussing paying females at the national level, we need to pump that money into the whole female programme in terms of the youth prigramme, the training of female coaches and all of that and get the programme to a level,” he added.
Two weeks ago, Rowan Benjamin, who is coach of Premier Division champions the Liberta Blackhawks, said he is not in favour of female players being paid to play. Rowan added however, that his reason is based on the fact that the female version of the game must first improve and a proper structure put in place.
His statement drew criticism from some corners of society while others had supported and agreed with the coach’s sentiments.
Kenneth however believes that the debate highlights the need for measures and bodies to be put in place to protect the rights of players.
“That is what the players need, a players’ association to say that once you make the national team then these things need to happen, and if that was in place, then we wouldn’t need to be having this discussion because it would be automatic. Unless that doesn’t happen, because the associations could say just like Porridge [Rowan Benjamin], that we don’t think they have reached the standard as yet to be paid, and they could say all sorts of things, but if the players’ association says to the football association that listen, once you are selected for the national team and you start to train then this starts to happen,” he said. Currently, the football association offers a “loss of wages” package to those female players who are gainfully employed but are not compensated for time spent away from work when representing the national teams.