By Neto Baptiste
Former sports minister and a former general secretary of the Antigua and Barbuda Football Association (ABFA) EP Chet Greene, has labelled a recent video showing an overgrown and unkempt playing surface at the historic Antigua Recreation Grounds (ARG) as “mischievous,” stating that the facility has been unused since March last year when the country recorded its first case of the deadly coronavirus.
“The video was mischievous because during the Covid period there was absolutely no activity taking place at the ARG. The ARG, unlike the Sir Viv stadium, does not have a cadre of workers dedicated to its maintenance and upkeep. We know that the ARG is now about to be upgraded or refurbished and I am sure that the playing surface is one of those areas for attention,” he said.
Since the emergence of the video, President of the ABFA, Everton Gonsalves, has denied claims of neglect, stating that plans for upgrading the field are in the pipelines.
According to Greene, he does not see a scenario where either football or the annual Carnival celebrations will be taken out of the popular venue.
“I don’t see Carnival moving from the ARG in our collective lifetimes, and I don’t see football moving from the ARG in our collective lifetimes. I see some amount of domestic cricket returning to the ARG in our lifetime and so it is that kind of regime and planning that is required at this stage to ensure that the facility, the mecca of all sports in Antigua whether you like it or not. We love the Sir Viv stadium and it stands as a beacon and a proud symbol of our cricketing prowess in the world and the man who made us strut as a nation but the ARG with all of its records is, similarly the most important sporting facility in this country,” he said.
Greene, the country’s foreign affairs minister, recommended that a management team be assembled to ensure that the ARG remains in pristine condition.
“I just wish that in the context of the work they are doing that the multiplicity of use for the ARG will be factored in and that a team will be put in place to manage and oversee its use and operations because we are a small country with limited facilities and we have to find ways of making sure that we highlight, preserve and protect at the same time so I could see where the ARG, going forward, would be the home for international football matches,” the NOC boss said. The ARG has since been cut while government recently revealed that the condemned WIOC double-decker stand is scheduled to be dismantled in April.