By Neto Baptiste
The Liberta Blackhawks, following a long battle with the Antigua and Barbuda Football Association (ABFA) over the body’s reimbursement (insurance) policy, is scheduled for a return to action this weekend.
The 2019/20 Premier Division champions will play FC Aston Villa in the second match of a triple header at the FA’s technical center on Saturday marking the first time they will appear since the competition kicked off on November 26 last year.
Coach Rowan Benjamin said that although there have been a few transfer requests by players, the club is more than prepared to take the field this weekend.
“As we were saying all along, the players want to play and if there is uncertainty surrounding Liberta, and I must say that I believe that is why they held out this decision, because they are hoping a host of players would be leaving the club, but we had a meeting last night [Tuesday] and thankful to say that 18 players showed up and all 18 are willing to go and play football for the Liberta Sports Club, so that’s not an issue. We will show up for whatever games they schedule us for because we could be in trouble if we don’t show up for any more games,” he said.
The team has however, forfeited their first two matches to Willikies and Ottos Rangers, losing three points and three goals in both instances. Blackhawks were also docked an additional six points as a further penalty.
Benjamin said that although they may accept the penalties for missing the two matches, the additional penalties coupled with the perceived illegitimacy of the disciplinary committee could be challenged.
“We’re not protesting anything, we’re not appealing anything, but all we know is that our rights are in our hands and we will not let go of our rights. What we are saying here is that the rules state that if you do not show up for games then you will forfeit the point to the other team, but where an invalid disciplinary committee would have sat on us, we think that is wrong and we will do whatever is necessary to correct that,” the coach said.
Blackhawks and the ABFA have been at loggerheads since prior to the start of the competition over what they called a lack of information regarding the league’s insurance coverage. The FA subsequently informed clubs that the body was overhauling the coverage and that all invoices or receipts should be forwarded to them for reimbursement.
Blackhawks however sought further clarity on the issue but were not satisfied with the FA’s general response to all clubs.
“One has to stand up for something, and all over the country you go you’d hear the same thing so somebody has to stand up to the ABFA, and to the nonsense that is going on within the ABFA. This thing didn’t have to reach this stage because all it took was for the ABFA executive to sit down and let us reason out this thing,” Benjamin said.
The FA has not indicated to its members whether or not the league’s insurance policy has been finalised. The body’s reimbursement policy however remains in place.