By Neto Baptiste
Football clubs that would have competed in the 2019/2020 Premier Division football competition are currently mulling a number of options presented to them during a recent meeting with the principals of the Antigua and Barbuda Football Association (ABFA).
According to reports, the clubs were presented with four options at the meeting, one of which calls for the competition to be cancelled completely, naming no champion while promotion and demotion will also be overlooked.
Another option allows for the accepting of the standings at the time the competition was halted due to the coronavirus pandemic. This option will however see the crowning of a champion based on current statistics and allow for demotion and or promotion of teams.
The other two options, one of which is resumption of the league when given the all clear by health authorities and the other being a hybrid situation where teams eligible for promotion and moved up the ranks but none will be demoted, were all tabled at the presidents’ meeting last week.
Coach of the Liberta Blackhawks Rowan Benjamin, who has been vocal on the issue for some time now, said his club’s stance on the issue has not changed and that the league must be cancelled and current standings nulled null and void.
“We had called early for a cancellation of the league and we are still for the cancellation of the league but when you are deciding on cancelling the league, are you going to cancel it null and void or with promotion and relegation and so that’s an issue we have to decide. Cancelling the season null and void means that you cannot declare any winners and there will be no promotion or relegation so everybody will remain as is,” he said.
Indications are that clubs will be surveyed on the four possibilities with the majority vote being heavily considered by the football association.
According to Benjamin, however, the option of resumption can be taken out of the equation as it was clear during the recent meeting that none of the clubs are in favour of going that route.
“But I believe that out of the meetings and subsequently they would have had meetings with the First and one half of the Second Division and the consensus is that the clubs do not want to continue the league so that is off the table. I know for sure that it was mentioned in the Premier Division that the particular area was definitely off the table,” the coach said.
Supporting Benjamin’s sentiments was President of the Five Islands FC, Fernando Abraham, who agreed that resumption is out of the question but believes teams from the First and Second Divisions that would have done well thus far should be rewarded.
“It is impossible for us to continue at this time but however, the other three options we’ve looked them and we’ve decided that we don’t mind if they decide to do promotion and leave it at that. Most of the teams do not want to continue and we [Five Islands] share the same view that we don’t want to really continue the league at this point in time because we think it is too far gone,” he said.
“The other options that are there we’re all for promoting teams from the First and Second Divisions but with no demotion and that’ not coming because Five Islands is in that position. I think it’s the fairest way to go on from here,” he added.
The hybrid option, according to reports, would allow for the promotion of four teams from the First Division, a move that would increase the number of top flight teams from 10 to 14 as there would be demoted from the upper tier.
It will also see the advancement of four or eight teams from the Second Division into the First Division while there will be no demotion from the First Division.
Liberta, who are defending top flight champions, and Five Islands, were both faced with demotion from the top flight with two rounds of matches left in the competition. Five Islands sit at the bottom of the standings with 15 points while Liberta are third from bottom with 18.