The Bay Gardens Marina Hotel conference room in Rodney Bay, Gros Islet was a hive of activity when the Saint Lucia Football Association Inc. (SLFA) on Wednesday 17th July launched the second annual Island Cup Championship. This year’s tournament is sponsored by the National Lotteries Authority (NLA).
In attendance were Saint Lucia Football Association Inc (SLFA) President – Lyndon Cooper, executive/staff of the SLFA, Chairman of National Lotteries Authority (NLA) – Caron Serieux; Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Youth Development and Sports – Benson Emille, representative of the various Football Leagues and members of the media.
Following the welcome remarks by Stephen Regis, Vice President of the Association for the Eastern Region, newly appointed Competitions Officer, Stephen Marcellin gave an over view of the competition.
The competition which was first held last year was sponsored by Coca Cola and was won by Marchand. In 2019 the competition sponsored by the National Lotteries Authority has been expanded to include 17 teams representing the District Leagues who have complied with the Club Licensing regulations.
According to Marcellin, the competition’s format will see the teams placed into two groups playing in a round robin format, following which the top four teams in each group will further engage in a single round robin competition comprising eight teams. At the conclusion of this second phase the top four teams will engage in a Semi Finals, Third Place Play Off and Finals.
Matches will be played at the Marchand Grounds, Anse La Raye Playing Field and the La Resource Playing Field on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays from 4.00 p.m; 6.00 p.m and 8.00 p.m.
Upon the conclusion of the SLFA Inc. 2019 Island Cup a total of 95 matches would have been played surpassing FIFA’s stipulated 90 matches which would put the SLFA Inc Association in good stead with the world governing body.
SLFA President, Lyndon Cooper in his address said, “With the coming on stream of the Island Cup it has become necessary to reexamine the format of the Club Championship. Hence at the end of 2019 the President’s Cup will cease to exist and what we will see in 2020 is the Club championship comprising of a first division, second division and the promotional”.
He continued, “This will form the core of one competition and the new format will be expected to realize the playing of the required 90 matches stipulated by FIFA”.
Cooper said, “The year 2020 will also herald the introduction of a number of competitions being played with a different format. For example the current Zonal Under 11, and Under 13 competitions, which pans out to semifinals and finals will no longer be held; All Zonal competitions will now be formatted to be qualifiers for the National competition”.
The SLFA Boss said, “It is anticipated that by December 31st 2019 all clubs will have met all aspects of the D licensing requirements, so by January 2020 it will be strictly competitions and compliance. In addition, at the end of 2020, the expectation is a total stabilizing of Club Football both on the playing field and administratively”.
The women were not left out. Cooper pointed out that some major changes are expected to be made regarding the structuring of female football which is expected to be somewhat challenging. There shall be a single competition to be played in a round robin format with at least ten teams.
He said, “In 2020 there will be no Under 17 or Under 20 national competitions for women. However, plans will be undertaken to organize an Under 14 Female competition”.
“In addition, in 2020, the SLFA intention will be to stabilize youth football for both boys and girls with the emphasis on the Primary Schools. To this end a task force has been established who has subsequently met periodically and produced a proposal plan on the way forward. It is highly anticipated that this will be adopted and implemented in the new school year”. noted Cooper.
He said, “This new move ahead will ensure that the children get the opportunity to benefit from more playing time at the Club and District level, and in addition receive the required quality instruction so that by the time they enter Secondary School they will be more than competent to represent the country at the Under 14 level”.
For his part Chairman of the NLA, Caron Serieux, while expressing his organization’s delight on coming on board to partner with the SLFA Inc he never expressed some concerns.
Among those he highlighted were: Players’ attitude towards the sport; the structural weakness at the District level; the unavailability of suitable grounds to host tournaments and Refereeing and Officiating
The latter was of grave concern, and while lamenting the absence of top class referees on the island he nevertheless hopes that this area is paid specific attention and that they will be monitoring it closely.
Of concern to the NLA was the seeming lack of organized football development at the District level which he hoped will be given some much desired attention.
Serieux concluded that while the NLA has already committed to sponsoring the tournament with a specific figure in mind this could be increased as they continue to monitor the progress of the tournament.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Youth Development and Sports, Benson Emille who was making his first public outing upon being appointed recently, lauded the SLFA Inc for the strides being undertaken in the further development of the sport.
Emille, challenged the players that despite the fact that they are engaged in an amateur sport they need to think big like a professional and raise their game perception and outlook.
He committed his Ministry to helping in whatever tangible way they can to assist the SLFA Inc and pledged his Ministry and Government continued thrust towards the development of Youth and Sport on the island inclusive of the development of playing fields.