By Neto Baptiste
Clubs competing in the top flight of the country’s domestic football competition are not prepared, from an infrastructural standpoint, to host matches should the Antigua and Barbuda Football Association (ABFA) move to a home and away structure.
This is the belief of ABFA vice president and chair of the body’s competitions committee, Gwen Salmon, who said that although the FA would like to decentralize the Premier Division competition, it is just not feasible at this point.
“First of all, we have to fix the infrastructure because premier league can’t just go and play in an open field so we have to put our infrastructure in place before we could even think about that … the clubs must get some of the infrastructure in place first and then we can look at that; we are not looking at that as an immediate fix,” she said.
The ABFA’s Premier Division has been centralized since its inception with matches in the competition played at the historic Antigua Recreation Grounds (ARG) over the past 15 years. Prior to the ARG, the FA’s top flight was also played at the Police Recreation Grounds (PRG) with some matches also hosted at YASCO Sports Complex in the past.
In 2011, some matches in the Premier Division competition were played at the then Stanford Cricket Ground, currently the Coolidge Cricket Ground.
Salmon, who is also president of the Greenbay Hoppers FC, reminded also that monies collected during the Premier Division are also used to offset cost associated with the running of the lower tiers.
“When you decentralize matches, like in some countries, you have to pay the referee cost and everything in terms of the club that will be hosting, and I don’t think we can host any Premier Division matches like that at this present moment. Plus, the premier league carries all of the responsibilities where you are paying all of the bills for the first and second division where the money that we bring in from the premier league takes care of the cost of running the first and second divisions,” she said.
The question of possible home and away matches in the Premier Division has been raised on several occasions, but there has been no study as to whether or not the move would be beneficial to all involved.