By Neto Baptiste
General Secretary of the Antigua and Barbuda Football Association (ABFA), Rohan Hector, has debunked what he terms widespread belief that the body wants exclusive rights to the historic Antigua Recreation Grounds (ARG).
Hector, admitting that it has been a challenge in trying to prepare the venue for Premier Division football following annual Carnival celebrations, said both the ABFA and the government are in constant dialogue and negotiations as to how the two events could coexist in a harmonious relationship.
“Some people believe that we want the ARG to be the exclusive venue for football and that is not the case. What we want to have is a commonsense arrangement between the government and the football association. The minister [Daryll Matthew] has laid out a very good programme and we had meetings as recently as two weeks ago, and I think we have now set out a great new framework in terms of having somebody from football involved with the preparations for Carnival and the other things when they come in there,” he said.
“Obviously, we don’t like the situation that when they leave we have two or three months’ delay to the start of our league. But he [Daryll Matthew] and the association have been in good talks to make sure that it doesn’t happen in the future,” he added.
The association’s top flight started almost two months off its usual September start this year after the FA was forced to carry out massive rehabilitation work on the field at the venue following destruction caused by heavy machinery placed on the field to remove the Carnival stage.
This practice has, in fact, delayed the start of the FA’s programme for many years now.
Hector believes there are solutions to every problem and that given the historical significance of the ARG where it pertains to both Carnival and cricket, a compromise must be reached.
“The historic nature of what the ARG stands for, nobody should change that, but obviously football at the highest level is played in there and it is probably the best venue for football in the country as we speak. So we want to have an arrangement but certainly not to change the nomenclature of the ARG and suggest it is going to be like a football club and don’t belong to anybody else. One of the things we are discussing with the minister is to be able to put down a mat over a significant portion of the pitch to prevent what happened last time around,” the GS said. The domestic season started late October following intense work to rehabilitate the field at the ARG. During the delivery of the Throne Speech in January, Governor General Sir Rodney Williams, announced that the ARG would become the permanent home for Premier Division football.