St. John’s, Antigua
As President of the ABFA, I take this opportunity to remind you of the major objective of the ABFA as stipulated in our constitution, “TO IMPROVE THE GAME OF FOOTBALL CONSTANTLY AND PROMOTE, REGULATE AND CONTROL IT THROUGHOUT THE TERRITORY OF ABFA IN THE LIGHT OF FAIR PLAY AND ITS UNIFYING, EDUCATIONAL, CULTURAL AND HUMANITARIAN VALUES, PARTICULARLY THROUGH YOUTH AND DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMS.”
As a result of our constant improvement of football both on and off the field, the Executive Committee felt confident that as a loyal and dedicated member of FIFA, we should fulfill our obligation by participating in the FIFA 2014 World Cup qualifiers. The financial requirement to compete at this level was daunting to say the least but we had to showcase that the nation of Antigua and Barbuda “the Benna Boys” were ready for the world and as such we approached the Government of Antigua and Barbuda for their assistance. The Government was not in a position to provide the requisite financing but agreed to provide adequate security in the form of a guarantee of cash held in a fixed deposit at ABI Bank Limited after recommending that we approach one of our leading indigenous financial institutions the Antigua Commercial Bank. The bank readily agreed to assist by providing an overdraft facility to the ABFA but requested additional security from the ABFA. We were indeed overwhelmed with joy, a sense of national pride and patriotism and with so little time to prepare, we inadvertently missed an important requirement imbedded in the FIFA Goal Project regulations and so pledged our lands where the FIFA Goal Project is located as the additional security without seeking the permission from FIFA although we had implicit and explicit approval from the original donor of the lands (the Government of Antigua and Barbuda) to the ABFA. In particular Article 5, paragraph 1 and 4. Of the FIFA Goal Project regulations which reads as follows: “selling or mortgaging assets financed through the Goal programme violates the objectives and conditions of the programme, and is not permitted without explicit approval from FIFA and the land donors of the original project. Leasing an asset financed through a Goal programme for a purpose other than development of football is also forbidden without approval of FIFA. Members violating the terms of this article will be referred to the Disciplinary Committee for action, including expulsion.”
There is no doubt and the Antigua and Barbuda Football Association spared no effort to inform all and sundry that this arrangement with the bank was for the sole purpose of the further development of football in Antigua and Barbuda via participation in the 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers which is mandatory for all members of FIFA.
However, one of our member clubs, Tryum F.C., immediately following the elections held in May 2013, informed FIFA through CONCACAF by letter that the ABFA was in breach of this requirement and asked FIFA to take action against the association. Consequently FIFA wrote us advising as to this complaint. As soon as we were made aware of this inadvertent oversight, we indicated to FIFA that it was an oversight, we were indeed sorry and that every effort would be made to ensure that the Government of Antigua and Barbuda’s cash security, held at ABI Bank Limited and/or substitute lands would be provided to free up the lands owned by the ABFA where the FIFA Goal Project is located and return it to its previous unencumbered state. We were unable to utilize the fixed deposit guarantee and therefore had to rely on substitute lands provided again by the Government, the original donor of the lands, to affect a Discharge of the Charge that was placed on our land where the FIFA Goal Project is located. This was indeed time consuming but FIFA was kept abreast of the situation every step of the way.
The Antigua Commercial Bank has since agreed to discharge the charge placed on our land where the FIFA Goal Project is located and has communicated this to the ABFA who subsequently communicated this to FIFA. FIFA had requested a copy of the discharge of charge by February 10, 2014. This deadline was not met due to the fact that the Survey Department is experiencing a serious difficulty with its relocation to a new building and as such is unable to provide the land registry with the demarcations and or delineations of the substituted property in order to facilitate the registering of the discharge of charge by the bank and submission of same to FIFA. This is really unfortunate and as if this was not enough, FIFA, in addition to withholding financial assistance which is the life blood of small member associations such as the ABFA sent the matter to the FIFA Disciplinary Committee because of the fact that time had elapsed and it being part of the process. The FIFA Disciplinary Committee issued a decision dated February 27, 2014 indicating that the Antigua and Barbuda Football Association has been fined 30,000 Swiss Francs to be paid in 30 days from receipt of the decision along with submission of a copy of the registered discharge of charge from the bank. The Antigua and Barbuda Football Association has requested the grounds of the decision from the FIFA Disciplinary Committee in order to avoid waving its right of appeal and after consultation with its stakeholders and advisors will decide and inform our members of the next step.
We wish to assure and reassure our members and our colleagues in FIFA that the FIFA Goal Project remains under the ownership of the ABFA and FIFA and with the help and support of all our stakeholders and FIFA we will complete our long outstanding goal project for the benefit of football in our small but loyal to FIFA twin island state of Antigua and Barbuda.
In the mean time, we continue to explore ways of raising 30,000 Swiss Francs and have reiterated to the leadership of the Survey Department the seriousness of the matter but most importantly we take this opportunity to express our sincere appreciation and request the continued loyalty and support of all of our members, the Antigua Commercial Bank, the Government of Antigua and Barbuda , our sponsors and partners, our colleagues in CFU, CONCACAF and FIFA and all football loving fans at home and abroad as we continue to toil in the vineyard for the Game for the World. We continue to place our trust in Almighty God and with his grace, we will overcome again.