SVGFF challenge: One for all sporting bodies
One can well imagine how the leadership of the SVG Football Federation (SVGFF) must be contemplating facing up to the huge challenge of restoring its badly tarnished image following the two-year ban by the world body, FIFA, on its President, Venold Coombs, from all football administration. Coombs’ ban is not only a disgrace to the SVGFF, it is also a blot on sport in SVG and on the entire Vincentian nation. In years to come, when very few might remember Venold Coombs, the record will show that the Head of the SVGFF had to be sanctioned for corrupt practices.
Already, and understandably so, there have been calls for the local Football Federation to “put its house in order”, including an impassioned appeal by former SVGFF President, current Parliamentarian St Clair Leacock. In so doing he has made a most telling point relating to the injection of funds into local football not appearing to yield the expected results, using FIFA rankings as a base.
For years, before the SVGFF became affiliated to FIFA, we all lamented the lack of funding to develop local football. Since becoming a FIFA member, the local Federation has had access to funding, especially given the connection with ‘Jack’ Warner, the disgraced former FIFA Vice-President. Relatively significant amounts of funding were made available to the SVGFF.
But it seems that access to funding, tickets for World Cup and other prestigious competitions, TV rights, perks and power for top executives became the order of the day. In turn these have provided incentives for all kinds of power-, glory- and self-seekers to aspire to the leadership of not just the SVGFF, but other Federations in the region a well. No wonder we have been so tainted with bans, jailing and extradition requests for several of the region’s football officials.
The result has been to bring shame on CONCACAF, on the CFU and now our own Federation. This has not been handled well up to now and all three Federations are yet to live up to their responsibilities where accountability is concerned. An important part of getting “its act together”, and restoring “our glory days when we can lift and keep our heads high”, as Major Leacock urges, must be to provide honest explanations.
For instance, FIFA has sanctioned Coombs, but what is the position of the SVGFF? Has it conducted its own investigation? Does it fully accept the FIFA ruling? Will it impose any sanctions of its own? Has it ever explained what became of the infamous Warner US$40,000?
All these are important to not only restore the credibility of the Federation, but also that of our entire sporting community. It is a formidable challenge for, internally, there will be some ready to pounce on acting head Marvin Fraser and his administration. They cannot be distracted by these, but must get their priorities right. If the SVGFF comes clean we must all be prepared to give support. The challenge before that Federation is not just one for football; it faces all of sport in SVG, for there are many others who regard the sporting bodies they lead as their own personal fiefdoms. That challenge must be firmly faced.