By Neto Baptiste
Vice President of the Antigua and Barbuda Football Association (ABFA) and chair of the body’s competitions committee, Gwen Salmon said that contrary to popular belief, the country’s top tier is not heavily populated by imported players.
Responding to questions over concerns that the practice could have a negative impact on the growth and development of local talent, Salmon revealed that over 70 percent of players in the Premier Division and born Antiguans.
“Everybody looks and thinks we have an issue with imported players in the league, but we don’t because I think it is less than seven percent of the league is overseas players and we only had about three teams that were operating like that [with a high percentage of imported players] because 76 percent of the premier league was local players,” she said.
The debate over whether or not there should be a limit to the number of players any one club is allowed to import is one that has dominated the airwaves on countless occasions with clubs seemingly split down the middle and the FA’s executive unwilling to institute a cap on its own.
Salmon, who is also president of former Premier Division champions, Greenbay Hoppers FC, said that a large portion of players thought to be imported are player who have been living in the country for quite some time.
“There were also players who were playing in the league that have been living in Antigua but they are not Antiguans and they are registered by the clubs and you ask for their nationality they state where they are from so we can’t say that everybody was imported because they were living in the country,” she said.
At least two Premier Division clubs imported a high volume of players during the 2019/20 domestic season with one club having as much as 13 at one stage. The 2019/20 season ended prematurely when, in March 2020, the country recorded its first case of the coronavirus.