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By Neto Baptiste

President of the Antigua and Barbuda Football Referees Association (ABFRA) Oliver Joseph said the body was not consulted on a decision to increase the Premier Division competition by more than 50 percent.

In an interview with the OBSERVER, Joseph said that although it is not commonplace for the association to be given a voice in decisions affecting the quality of service they are able to provide, it would have been prudent on the part of the Antigua and Barbuda Football Association (ABFA) to first discuss the planned increase with the referees. 

“From the referees association end, no we were not. I can’t speak for the referees committee end because the chairman of the referees committee [Rolston James] he is also a member of the ABFA executive so I guess he was consulted, but from the ABFRA perspective, we were not consulted on this decision,” he said.

“If you are going to restructure the league, then it is not only about the teams, so I think that the association should have been contacted. You don’t have to tell us what the decision is but you could at least say, this is our plan going forward,” he added. 

Last week, the football association announced the cancellation of its coronavirus-affected 2019/20 season and the promotion of 12 teams as they move to restructure the division.

Joseph said the increase in teams presents a major challenge to the association where manpower is concerned.

“Sixteen teams in the Premier Division is going to be a bit taxing on the referees, knowing that you want the best referees at that level, and presently, I don’t see us having enough referees to do a 16-team Premier Division. It is going to take a lot of the older referees to get back in shape so that they can officiate these games,” he said.

As part of the restructuring efforts, six teams will be promoted from Second to First Division while six will also be promoted from the First to the Premier Division.

Garden Stars FC, Bendals FC, Lion Hill FC, JSC Progressors, Young Lions FC, and Green City FC have all been promoted from the Second Division, while Empire FC, Sap FC, FC Aston Villa, Tryum FC, Blue Jays FC and Willikies FC will play in the now 16-team Premier Division.

No winners were crowned while no teams will be relegated from either the Premier or the First Division.

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