Veteran referee says location bias kept country’s best from reaching top level

Veteran referee Vanroy Burnes (centre) conducts the coin toss at the start of a Premier Division match at the ARG. (File photo)
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By Neto Baptiste

Veteran referee, Vanroy Burnes, believes that had it not been for regional football politics that more of the country’s referees would have made it onto the international scene.

Speaking on the Good Morning Jojo Sports Show, Burnes, who has been a referee for 42 unbroken years, said referees from bigger countries like Trinidad and Jamaica were often given preference over others from smaller islands only because officials in high-ranking positions lobbied on their behalf.

“In 1992, Jack Warner, made it clear in Mexico City at a symposium where we were said that the first referee going to the [World Cup] must be a Trinidadian, and then what do you think happened? Ramesh Ramdhan went to the World Cup on two occasions and then who was in line after Ramdhan? Peter Prendergast from Jamaica because Captain Horace Burrell was the vice president of COCACAF and the vice president of CFU and so his people had to go to but we didn’t have anybody on our side,” he said.

In 2002, Antiguan referee Curtis Charles was an assistant referee at the FIFA World Cup held in Japan and South Korea.

Meanwhile, former president of the Antigua and Barbuda Football Referees Association (ABFRA) and referees trainer, Ivor Davis, believes local officials are not adequately preparing themselves for the top level.

“I don’t know about recently but one of the main problems we had before was fitness, referees didn’t like to train and Curtis would train morning, noon, and night, so he was always fit and that’s one of our main problems. I believe they knew the laws of the game but if you’re not fit you cannot apply the laws properly because you have to be close to the play at all times. You can’t stay in one penalty area and blow a penalty area because it looks bad, number one and number two, it has to be something very blatant for you to stay so far and see it,” he said. Currently, there are four Antiguan referees on the FIFA list. They are Wasnah Barnarde, Iola Simmons, Iroots Appleton and Kevin Peters.

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