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Jan 22, 2004

Sports Council cracks whip on F.F.B.

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The confrontation has been building for years. On Tuesday Cabinet decided on a course of action, yesterday the P.M. delivered the decision, and today it was left to the National Sports Council to give the details of government’s latest move to break the impasse in the national crisis over football.

Janelle Chanona, Reporting

By all accounts, it was the most well attended press conference in recent memory, and running the full gamut of the game. Fans, club owners, players, referees, the media, and now, government officials were all there to learn the fate of the Football Federation of Belize.

David Fonseca, Chairman, National Sports Council

“One, The registration of the F.F.B. as a sporting organisation under the Sports Act has been cancelled. Two, the F.F.B. shall not be entitled to any of the privileges, including use of equipment and facilities, concessions or exemptions granted to a registered sporting organisation, and shall not be eligible to participate in any competitions or functions held under the auspices of the Council.”

The N.S.C. recommendations also include that G.O.B. not recognize the F.F.B. as an association able to represent Belize nationally and internationally. Furthermore, F.F.B. has thirty days to provide the Minister of Sports information such as audited financial statements, detailed accounts of monies received and spent in the last five years, and any other information required by the National Sports Council or its appointee during the investigation of the accounts and activities of the F.F.B.

While the National Sports Council would not identify the alleged irregularities within the F.F.B. that prompted the investigation, the N.S.C. says it’s on legal high ground.

Christopher Coye, Secretary, Natl. Sports Council

“The Sports Council is acting within the scope of the act. So long as sporting organisations are complying with the Sports Act and the requirements of the Sports Council to the extent that the Sports Council can make such requirements, then such sporting organisations can continue to carry on their activities as they deem fit. At this point in time, the most pressing issue–at least to most people–has been football and we are dealing with that at this point in time.”

Dr. Bertie Chimilio, President, F.F.B.

“Politics, Money and Power.”

That’s the contention of F.F.B. president Dr. Bertie Chimilio as to the government’s motive for singling out his organisation for investigation.

Dr. Bertie Chimilio

“Personally, I think it’s political interference. I believe that there are persons at the Sports Council have been trying to do this for the last five years. They have not succeeded and now they see a window of opportunity for it to succeed. And that’s the reason why the situation with the B.P.F.L. cannot be solved because there are agendas and I have been saying it for years. I have been saying it for years that this thing is not just that the B.P.F.L. wanted to walk away; they are agendas of people who want to do what they want to do with football. This document is a total revamping of the football in this country. They have not said all the good things the F.F.B. has done, they only try to look at certain things. If you notice, the release only talks about the money. It’s only about money, so it’s obvious that the cheese is the problem, and that has been a big problem from day one and we were forewarned by FIFA and CONCACAF that this is going to be a problem.”

Dr. Clara Cuellar, Executive Director, N.S.C.

“We are here today because when we initiated the work with the F.F.B., they have refused to cooperate with the matters we laid on the table. We have been working very closely with other sporting organisations and cooperation has been onboard because several precedents have been set prior to today in how business matters was conducted. And so as we try to take ourselves to another professional level in sport, we are collaborating with presidents of organisations on ways that Belize as a country can reach there. We have not had this lack of cooperation from any other organisation at this point in time.”

Big supporters of this move were the club owners of the Belize Premier Football League.

Janelle Chanona

“Is this just about Dr. Bertie Chimilio or are there some real core issues going on?”

Daniel Fabro

“I don’t think it’s only Dr. Chimilio because Dr. Chimilio has his executives and his people in the districts, the district chairmen as they call themselves. These, I think seven people, are who I hold personally responsible for the state of where we are today because these are the people who have Dr. Chimilio where he is right now.”

If the situation isn’t resolved soon and FIFA suspends or expels Belize, the biggest losers of the football fallout will be our players. But those we spoke to this morning were grateful for the government intervention.

Charlie Slusher, Player, Belmopan Bandits

“Basically, for myself as a player, it seems that my days of international playing might be over because of the whole situation, but I’m happy about it in the sense that at least the kids, the youths of tomorrow will probably have a chance to play international.”

Robert Muschamp, Player, Sagitun

“Even when we were under the F.F.B., Sagitun won championship and we couldn’t go international, Yabra won three times, Sagitun won after that, and we still didn’t go anywhere so even though while we were linked with F.F.B., we still weren’t going abroad to play international games, so like right now it doesn’t really matter to me.”

According to Dr. Chimilio, an executive meeting will be called soon so that the Football Federation of Belize can discuss Government’s conditions and decide their next course of action. Of note is that one of the recommendations made is that the F.F.B. must hold elections of officers before being accepted as registered by the N.S.C.

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