The Montserrat Football Association broke ground Saturday on an eight million EC dollar dormitory complex which will improve the opportunities for the island to host more regional and international tournaments.
In his opening remarks, the MFA president Vincent Cassell said he was happy they had been able to reach this milestone and called on the government to provide the support they needed to truly help the young people through football.
Cassell said the MFA was frequently troubled with government departments “breaking down their doors” in an effort to descredit them. Rather, he said the association was doing its best to use its funds to build football but that was made difficult by the high cost of travel for the athletes to get much-needed competition time.
Hon. Deputy Premier and Minister of Sport Delmaude Ryan said in her address she was aware of Cassell’s frustrations and said his labour was now baring fruit in the form of the 32-bedroom dormitory. Ryan said the new complex would help Montserrat to grow as a football nation and provide opportunities for boys and girls and their coaches. She also welcomed the possibilities of Montserrat hosting more regional and international tournaments. However, she did not address what efforts were being made by the government to reduce or eliminate the high cost of travel on the ferry which Cassell has been requesting.
One of the contractual agreements that the Government of Montserrat made with DFID to receive a new ferry contract was the elimination of reduced and/or free tickets for individuals or groups. This decision has meant that sports groups such as the MFA, would need to find an average of 9000 dollars per trip for ferry tickets for the 30 or so athletes and coaches who would need to travel or come into the island for regular games, to improve the abilities of the local players.
The MFA president said he was prepared to wait as long as possible to see how the government would assist. He has also spoken in the past of the need for customs waivers and the removal of other red tape to import the football gear and supplies needed for the development of the sport on island.
FIFA Vice President for Africa and the Caribbean, Veron Mosengo-Omba said “it was important for us (FIFA) to come personally to congratulate the MFA.” He said the new dormitory was an example of the commitment of FIFA and the MFA to develop football and strengthen the nation of Montserrat.
He also shared that FIFA, under the new president Gianni Infantino, had increased the annual subsidies for all national football associations from US$250,000 to US$1.2 million. This, he said would allow the MFA to do more work which will have a spill off socio-economic effect for Montserrat.
Also attending the groundbreaking was Caribbean Projects Director for CONCACAF Howard McIntosh. He congratulated Mr Cassell and the football association for their tireless work and reaching this far. He told Discover Montserrat when asked about issues of transparency that if they had not been confident in the MFA they would not have been able to receive the Goal Project funds to build the new complex.
McIntosh said the entire FIFA/CONCACAF organisation had been challenged with the issues of governance and they were continuing to improve this. He said CONCACAF gives the MFA administrative and governance support in addition to the technical support to build up football. “We’ve come through a lot in football, and it is not unreasonable that questions will be asked. Throughout the entire system we’ve improved governance. It is going to take some time to overcome the perception and it is a work in progress. Over time you will see where the money is being spent.”
Cassell called the perception of a lack of transparency in the MFA a myth, which would increase now that they have received additional funding. However, he said the organisation was audited annually by local, regional and FIFA auditors and reports are available for those who wish to review them.
McIntosh, who was a former development officer for FIFA said they have instituted the All Nations League for the Caribbean. This will see the national men’s teams competiting regularly starting in September and well into 2019. Once, the new league is moving forward, the women’s and younger teams will be added. The new league he said, is to benefit islands such as Montserrat which are challenged by limited opportunities to play international football regularly.
The new complex will be built adjacent to the Blake’s Football field on the Northern side. It will be 16,960 square feet broken into three main floor levels. The first and second levels will house 32 bedroom units capable of sleeping 64 guests. The lowe rsub-level will hold the main dining and kitchen area along with a spacious conference room, laundry and other mechanical rooms.