Saturday, April 20, 2024

THE SCORE: AstroTurf fans need more cover


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IT?IS?CRITICAL?that the Barbados Football Association (BFA) not rest on its laurels, otherwise it will be whistled for foul play.
The BFA has been caught between a rock and a previously dry place in relation to staging its Digicel Premier League competition at the Wildey AstroTurf.
Now that there has been a change in the weather with rainfall during the month of April, the association must move swiftly to provide adequate shelter and comfort for spectators at this dry-weather venue, as it is unlikely that the National Stadium will be ready for competitive football this season.
Every effort must now be made to improve the limited infrastructure at Wildey.
No one likes to leave home
to watch sport in fear of getting soaked by a heavy downpour. However, if diehard fans are assured of a comfortable and safe seat where they would be protected from the elements, they would still venture out to see their team play.
Certainly, the BFA, which depends on gate receipts to assist with its cash flow and help alleviate debts while paying a few bills, cannot afford to lose patrons.
Having done a creditable job before the start of the season by putting certain basic amenities in place to bring the facility up to a reasonably satisfactory state, the governing body now needs to start a second phase of work to compensate for when it rains.
The first phase involved the installation of water and electricity and placement of bunting on the perimeter fencing; the purchasing of containers which were converted into two dressing rooms for the players and referees as well as a ticket booth; tents for temporary changing rooms and for accommodating the media and first-aid personnel; the building of a couple of bathrooms and rental of chemical toilets.
Whereas most of the spectators, at the BFA’s urging, brought their umbrellas and chairs and sat on the mound behind the goal bars on the northern end of the ground, there is a dire need for additional tents or some form of structure with a covering.
Even the electronic media personnel have encountered problems with providing commentary from within the small tents where they have been placed, whenever it rains.
There are plenty of large tents in the country and if the right questions are asked to the right people, then the BFA may be fortunate to get a few more as a holding operation until it sets out on a long-term plan to build a permanent stand.
The BFA should also look at paving some of the areas inside the facility, especially near the entrance and exit gates, as the surroundings become muddy and soggy with pools of water when there is heavy rainfall, as was as the case last weekend.
Despite the economic situation, if I were BFA’s president Randy Harris, I would approach both Minister of Sport Stephen Lashley and Minister of Transport and Works Michael Lashley and ask for assistance.
Private help
Failing that, the BFA, which has not be able to benefit from the full annual FIFA financial grant this year, could also seek help from a couple of private companies who are in the construction business to come on board as a couple loads of grit and sand would also be helpful.
Parking has not been a problem, as the pasture to the north of the venue has become the area where drivers have parked their vehicles. But when it rains, people don’t like to park on a sodden pasture.
I’m well aware that coming out of a feasibility study, there has been resistance from nearby residents to football at the Wildey site, particularly to the installation of floodlights.
Greater good
But, as in the case of the refurbishment of Kensington Oval, “the greater good of the country” should take precedence.
Thus, I’m repeating my call for another study to be done which should pave the way for permanent floodlights at this facility, which has become extremely popular with fans as the new home for local football.
Unless the BFA?recognizes that its most urgent goal now is accommodation, it will certainly rain on its parade and it could be caught in an off-side position during the second half of the season.  


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