By Neto Baptiste
A players’ draft will precede next January’s senior women’s football league, a major addition to the programme as the Antigua and Barbuda Football Association seeks to make the league more competitive.
This is according to head of the women’s committee and First Vice President within the ABFA, Gwen Salmon, who said the draft will be used to seed only the national players across six proposed teams, while all other players will compete in a number exhibition matches in hopes of being picked up by competing teams.
She is hoping the draft will help to solve the issue where all of the better players are snatched up by the more established teams.
“We have attempted two seasons now to have the women’s league and what we have is like three and four clubs registering, but then when the deadline comes for us to get players it is hard for the clubs because you probably find all the players going to two clubs and we cannot have a league with just two clubs, so when Lisa came on board we observed what was going on,” she said.
“We had the registration for the league probably nearly a year now and I showed her the clubs that are registered and what we saw going on there and she suggested that the only thing that could make it work and for us to just start the league without any more hindrance is to just put a draft system in place,” she added.
US-born coach, Lisa Cole, who is the current head of the senior national women’s team, has also been tasked with improving the local programme and is responsible for the introduction of the draft system.
She believes this is the best method in ensuring that the best talents are spread evenly amongst the competing teams.
“You need to have multiple teams ready to compete and be competitive. If you have two groups winning and you have a group of four or five other teams that are just losing, it doesn’t make for good football, it just doesn’t; so you want a competitive league,” she said.
“Within the American system, we’ve done a draft system for a number of years and I don’t know that you will need a draft system down the road but in order to get at least six sustainable teams up and running then we need to have the talent spread amongst those teams so everybody has a good starting point and a good base and that it’s not the haves and haves not,” the coach added.
The league is scheduled to start the last Friday in January of next year while the draft will be held the second week of the said month. Cole said a number of teams have shown interest in participating but the aim is to start small and grow as the concept takes root.
“We’ve had 10 teams express an interest; we’re ready to run the league with just six, and again, if you think about just number of players and if you have a minimum of just 16 players per team, at six teams that’s 96 players, so there are 96 female players ready to play football today,” she said.
“If 10 means we need 160 women to play football so I think starting smaller and being able to grow is really important, so we feel like we can do a minimum of six. If we have eight then great, we will do eight,” Cole added.
Cole is most known for being the former head coach for the Boston Breakers in the US National Women’s Soccer League.
She has served in multiple international coaching roles. In 2018, she assisted the US Soccer U17 Women’s National team during their August trip to South Korea in preparation for the FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup. From 2015 to 2017, Cole most notably served as the Head Coach of the Papua New Guinea U20 Women’s National Team in their run-up to and during the 2016 FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup.