Liberta faces possible expulsion from Antigua and Barbuda's Premier Division in standoff with football association

By December 05, 2022

Liberta Sports Club could be facing expulsion from Antigua and Barbuda’s Premier Division after failing to turn up for its first two matches this season in protest over concerns about the administration of that country’s football association.

The league resumed two weeks ago after a Covid-19 enforced two-and-a-half-year hiatus but the Rowan Benjamin-managed club has yet to show up for any of their two games against All Stars United and Ottos Rangers FC, respectively, which leaves it at the mercy of the ABFA Disciplinary Committee that will meet in the coming days.

According to Rohan Hector, the ABFA General Secretary, the teams that Liberta was scheduled to play will likely be awarded points and the club could face expulsion from the competition.

“Rule 5.11; if a team does not report for a match except in the case of force majeure recognized by the executive committee or if it refused to continue to play or leave the ground before the end of the match the team will be considered having lost the match and three points awarded to the opponent 3-0,” he said.

He added that the guilty team shall, as a general rule, be subjected to disciplinary action as recommended by the disciplinary committee, which may include exclusion from further participation in the competition.

Liberta, meanwhile, is sticking to its guns while expressing concern over issues which they say the administration has not addressed leading up to the start of the competition.

Among those issues of concern is the appointment of an interim president after the incumbent Everton Gonzales fell ill shortly after he was elected in April 2022. In a letter dated, November 6, 2022, obtained by Sportsmax.TV, President of Liberta Sports Club Kenny Benjamin raised the issue regarding Gonzales’ absence.

“On April 25th 2022 the Antigua and Barbuda FA held its elections where Mr Everton Gonzales was elected as president,” Benjamin stated in the letter.

“Within the same week it was learnt via a radio talk show host that the president had left the country to seek medical assistance. Even at this time of penning this letter there has not been any communique’ from the ABFA to member clubs as to the president’s illness or his whereabouts, the person deputizing for the president as stipulated in the constitution.

“This can be seen as gross disrespect to the clubs and largely, the general public.”

According to the former West Indies bowler, seeing that President Gonzales has been out of office for the last six months, the constitution dictates that if the president is absent or unavailable, the longest serving vice-president available shall deputize.

He continued stating that according to the constitution, if the president is permanently or temporarily prevented from performing his official functions, the longest serving vice-president shall represent him/her until the next Congress.

According to the Benjamin brothers, up to early last week, this matter has not been addressed and there has been no communication informing the clubs of the situation.

However, Hector explained that while President Gonzales is ailing, he is still functioning  in that capacity.

“The president, upon on recognizing his illness and was going away for treatment, issued instruction to his executive on how they were to proceed in his absence,” Hector said.

“So, the president was not incapacitated to the point where he is not aware or has not been involved or been in touch or nor kept apprised of things going on. He is constantly in contact.

“Secondly, there was an update that was sent out to the membership yesterday (Sunday, December 4), that completely deals with that issue has been addressed.”

Player insurance was another issue raised by the Liberta manager.

In a letter dated November 22, Liberta President Kenny Benjamin fired off a letter to the FA inquiring about insurance for players for the coming season.

“Liberta Sports Club is concerned about its members participating in the ABFA’s Premier Division and not been clear about insurance of the players,” the letter stated.

“We are therefore requesting all information and details about the insurance be available to the team manager Mrs. Diane Anthony before our team PIC Black Hawks participation.”

The club manager cited an incident from 2019 when a Liberta player lost a tooth during a match and the club was forced to spend approximately EC$12,000 or about USD$4000 in medical expenses, funds that took the FA some time to refund.

Hector debunked those assertions, stating that the FA paid directly for the cost of getting the player’s tooth repaired. In fact, the general secretary said, the invoice for the player’s dental care was generated on February 26, 2019 and the cheque for said amount was paid on March 3, 2019, less than a week later.

“The ABFA paid the dental surgeon directly to repair the young man’s injuries so this notion there was a reimbursement was completely untrue,” Hector said.

Regarding the wider issue of insurance for the players for the season, Hector explained that the FA has engaged a new insurance company that will provide even more robust coverage for players, coaches and team personnel for the 2022/2023 season.

In response, the FA sent out a form requesting individual  player contact information in a bid to speed up the process of getting everyone insured, Hector explained.

He said what would usually happen is that each club would forward each player’s name using their club’s contact information. However, with the new insurer, the coverage required contact information for each individual player. As such, the FA sent out forms to the clubs requesting said information for each individual player.

“We did not want to slow down the process,” said Hector, who noted that of 43 club teams playing football in Antigua, Liberta was the only club holding out at the start of the new season.

“I want to take this opportunity to thank the other 42 teams for returning Antigua and Barbuda football after a lay-off of two and a half years, to not wonderful support from not only the clubs but also the fans who have turned out in massive numbers to support football in 2022/2023.”

Leighton Levy

Leighton Levy is a journalist with 28 years’ experience covering crime, entertainment, and sports. He joined the staff at SportsMax.TV as a content editor two years ago and is enjoying the experience of developing sports content and new ideas. At SportsMax.tv he is pursuing his true passion - sports.

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