By Neto Baptiste
Former national defender and coach Ivor Luke has urged the Antigua and Barbuda Football Association (ABFA) to address the issue of the importation of players into the country’s highest football tier, the Premier Division.
Luke once headed a committee set up by the Football Association to investigate and make recommendations to the body regarding the importation of players and the possible implementation of a quota system.
According to the once-feared defender, the committee had at least one meeting and was instructed to present, in writing, its pros and cons on the importation of players. But, he said, he has not heard from the FA since.
“We had a good balance of people for and against; and when I say against, I mean people who are for a restriction and a quota. It was on a Friday when we met, a long time ago, so I don’t remember the date. The last thing the president had asked for from the members of the committee was to give him, in writing, the pros and cons of having outside players in the league and I gave mine in the Monday morning early. I am not aware if anyone else on the committee had submitted anything, but I have not heard of anything since that … This is a subject that people have been dodging, but I believe it is something that needs to be addressed,” he said.
The debate over the importation of players has long existed and although most are not totally against the practice, many believe that not having a quota system in place leaves some teams at a disadvantage.
Luke said there are many advantages and disadvantages to the practice.
“I always have to put it on record that I am not against outside players coming in because it helps to develop the league; it helps to develop your players’ competitiveness and they gather experience from seeing players with a different level of skillset or attitude. Playing against somebody that’s pretty good from overseas will only raise your game,” the former player said.
“The problem I have is that if you can buy 11 players then it is a non-starter. There is no competition if I have the money and I can buy two strikers, four midfielders, a goalkeeper and four defenders and a coach,” he added.
Teams competing in the Premier Division have imported as many as 12 players for a single competition. The FA, in the past, has suggested that each club sets internal quotas, while some believe the FA should impose a quota on all teams.