By Neto Baptiste
Professional athletes plying their trade in the twin-island state of Antigua and Barbuda are now exempt from holding either a work permit or a skilled certificate.
This was revealed by Janela Evanson, a free movement desk officer within the Labour Department here, who said that a Statutory Order made this year, dictates that athletes whether regional or international, will not need to acquire the necessary legal documents that would allow them to work in the country.
“Presently we have an order, 20 of 2017, Antigua and Barbuda Labour Code non-application of Division F and Item D of this order reads: ‘That a person who is in Antigua and Barbuda for the purpose of being engaged in sports with a local club or has been hired by that club to compete for and or train their team for a particular session, which means, that persons who are here, regardless of your nationality, you’re exempted from a work permit and a skilled certificate,” she said.
Players, in the past, required either a work permit of the skilled certificate to be employed by sporting clubs in Antigua.
According to Evanson however, the requisite arms of the other bodies like Social Security and Medical Benefits would have to ensure that athletes who receive salaries make good on their tax obligations.
“Well we have no control over the Social Security Act or the Medical Benefit Act so the social security inspectors or the Social Security Board is responsible for monitoring that part of it,” the officer said.
In terms of keeping track of the players and ensuring they leave the country on completion of their arrangement, Evanson said “The immigration department is fully responsible for that part of it.”
General Secretary of the Grenades Football Club and a former ABFA executive member, Edson Joseph, reminded that the ABFA’s Premier Division competition is not a professional league and that players should not be collecting a salary for representing teams.
“The Antigua premier league, is not a part of either a pro league or a semi pro league so you cannot salary a person because of the fact that the association would find themselves in a position if you were to say you were going to salary or contract any players. There is an arrangement made between these players that is acceptable for an amateur association,” she said.
The news would be welcomed by a number of clubs, spanning cricket, football and basketball, that have employed the services of players outside of Antigua and Barbuda during their various competitions.